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Hansel Ochieng of Jericho FC attempts to connect to a low cross during their SPS8 PL match against Kayole Asubuhi on 4 June at City Stadium. The playing playing surface at the stadium is worn out and needs a facelift.

For a long time now in Kenya sporting infrastructure has been a major obstacle towards development of different sports disciplines especially football.

Besides the endless grandiose promises made by relevant authorities, aspiring leaders and those in power to have basic infrastructures such as stadia, field and running tracks in proper competing standards nothing much has been done to mitigate this major disease that is ailing sports in our country.

The perpetual pitiful state of our football stadia came to the fore on Sunday 4 June during the Super Sunday football extravaganza where award winning league, the Sportpesa Super 8 Premier League hosted three matches at the Nairobi county-owned City Stadium whose playing surface is completely dilapidated and needs serious urgent makeover.

Sportpesa Super 8 League as well as other competitions depends highly on City Stadium which is one of the oldest state owned facilities for hosting crowd puller games as it was the case last weekend.

ALSO READ: Dramatic late win for Jericho caps an eventful Super Sunday

With a huge fan base from all over the county and its neighbours, the prestigious three-tier grass root championship which prides its self as hotbed of raising top notch football talents in the country has been a victim of the atrocious state of football stadia for over a decade now.

“Lack of proper football playing grounds has become a thorn in the flesh for football administrators for quite some time. Right now, the problem is fully blown and everyone who depends on the sport is suffering. Super 8 League for example, we strain a lot in allocating venues for fixtures because playing grounds are less or in awful condition. This is killing the dreams of so many young talents at the grass root and it about time we hold relevant leaders accountable. We need this facilites to be up and running, both local and national government should do something about it.” Athanas Obango, the head of Operations and Coordination at Extreme Sports Limited, the company that runs the league lamented.

Last November, Extreme Sports Limited CEO Hussein Mohammed challenged the governement to roll up its sleeves and take care of the young generation of upcoming talent by inspiring their dreams in rebuilding and refurbishing stadia around the country. 

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Nairobi County deputy governor Jonathan Mueke (L) speaks to the press during the SPS8 Super Sunday football bonanza at City Stadium. He reiterated local governments plans of refurbishing the state owned stadium. With him is aspiring county women rep Esther Passaris (C) and Nairobi senator candidate Edwin Sifuna (R).

Facelift
Congestion of fixtures and other activities has left the artificial surface in horrific state as it is completely worn out making it  dangerous for players. This has greatly affected community based clubs who now bear the brunt of seeking alternative venues for matches.

It is nearly a decade since the astro turf at the facility was laid and last year it was shut down by the county government with a promise of a facelift. Since then, little has been done in that regard however; the Nairobi County government through deputy governor Jonathan Mueke who has been a great supporter of football development at the grass root has moved to reassure commitment of refurbishing the iconic stadium.

While speaking during the Super 8 League Super Sunday bonanza at City Stadium where he joined thousands of fans in celebrating grass football excellence spearheaded by the competition’s tagline #WakilishaMtaaYako, Mueke who is gunning for re-election for the second term as the deputy county boss revealed that preliminary work on the architecture of the new stadium is on the final stages and that actual work is scheduled begin early next year if everything goes according to plan.

“Right now we are working to make sure it is a world class facility for young people to play soccer. However, we can’t do it by ourselves, for real modernisation, we’ve come up with a partnership with Sportpesa who I have been negotiating with for months now and they are pretty sure to come up as title sponsors for this stadium.” Mueke said.

He further revealed that Sportpesa who are the title sponsors of the Sportpesa Super 8 League are in advanced talks with South Africa firms to in a bid to come up with a world class structure in the magnitude of the 2010 World Cup stadiums in Johanesburg.

“We are in stages of finishing with the architecture, only when we finish with the preliminary drawings on how it going to be, that’s when we’ll come up with a figure but in the next 6-8 month we should see some work.”

The Nairobi County government has supported the Extreme Sports run league by coming as partners for the county based competition which is now in its second season. They have waivered fees on county owned playing grounds in turn allowing smooth running of the celebrated league however, this is wonderful vision is being derailed by the unavailability of playing grounds.State_of_pitches.jpg

A player is treated by medics after being fouled during an SPS8 PL match at City Stadium.

In strong support of improving sporting infrastructure, Esther Passaris who is aspiring to become the Nairobi County women representative in the upcoming August polls, challenged the national government to embrace devolution saying counties should use sports as an important tool in helping youth stay out crime.

She also lauded institutions that have supported development of sports in the country warning that over taxation on betting firms will shun away potential investors.

“A county that recognizing sports is important, it keeps the youth out of crime and we have to make it viable.” She said.

“Right now we are getting few private sector sponsorship and it is important we respect institutions like Sportpesa who have been visible in embracing and developing sports and help the youth achieve big in sports. We don’t want tag of war where these firms are taxed to the point they no longer want to offer sponsorships, they should be embraced instead, why mend if it isn’t broken?”Passaris poised.

Since the City Stadium was closed for renovations, Super 8 League matches are normally spread across various locations within the county.