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Tough times lie ahead, Rachier warns KPL clubs

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CECIL ODONGO

By CECIL ODONGO
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Kenyan Premier League clubs should brace themselves for a prolonged financial crisis as the league body continues the search for a new sponsor.

KPL chairman Ambrose Rachier told Nation Sport prospective sponsors were offering deals that cannot sustain the league.

“The future of Kenya Premier League is very bleak and the current situation may not change soon. There is no prospect at all of the league getting a sponsor this season. Those who came shied off because of broadcast issues since our matches are not aired live on international platforms. It sad but that is where we are now,” said Rachier.

Rachier also confirmed that the league body’s secretariat had moved offices from Westlands to Lenana road to reduce the cost of operations.

The sentiments come at a time when three KPL teams have dished out six walkovers with Nzoia Sugar being the latest to miss their weekend clash against Bandari at Mbaraki Stadium in Mombasa.

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Chemelil Sugar, who got their first league win against Nzoia Sugar on Wednesday, failed to play against Bandari and KCB.

Sony Sugar, Kenyan champions in 2006, have since been suspended from the KPL this season having dished out walkovers to Zoo, Tusker and AFC Leopards.

Things have been tough for KPL since the exit of title sponsors SportPesa in August last year. The gaming firm sponsored the league and giants Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards.

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An open letter to President Uhuru Kenyatta

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ELIAS MAKORI

By ELIAS MAKORI
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I pray this finds you in good health.

First, Your Excellency, I’d like to congratulate you for the great efforts that you, and your good government, have employed in fighting the spread of the coronavirus.

God is with us, Sir, and, together, we shall slay this ubiquitous monster.

Your Excellency, I listened, with keen interest last Saturday morning, to your delivery of the government’s eight-point, Sh53.7 billion Economic Stimulus Programme that will, hopefully, get us out of the woods.

Indeed, Sh5 billion for infrastructure development, Sh6.5 billion in education support, Sh3 billion for SMEs, focus on hiring health workers and Sh1.7 billion for increasing hospital bed capacity is well thought-out mitigation.

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As is Sh4 billion to kick-start our tourism and conservancy, Sh850 million to stave off floods, Sh540 million for a “greening” programme, Sh600 million to shore up local manufacturing and a further Sh4.5 billion to support small-scale farming and horticulture.

Your Excellency, your stimulus programme will no doubt open up employment space and offer hope for millions of unemployed youths across the country.

However, Sir, precious little is being done for our sportspersons who appear rudderless in these days of the pandemic.

With Covid-19 having stopped play, there are tens of thousands of professional sportsmen and women without bread on their table.

From, inter alia, football league players to volleyballers, basketballers, hockey aces, and swimmers, rugby stars, cricketers along with both upcoming and elite track and field professionals.

Mweshimiwa Rais, for once, there is good rapport at the Ministry of Sport with Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed and Principal Secretary Joe Okudo a tag team working in tandem and quickly transforming the ministry’s operations, giving us all hope.

They are on the same page, reading from the same script.

Your Excellency, I hope you sustain this good duo of executives to the end of your term because, I’m certain, they will help you bequeath good legacy for sport.

Especially with political vultures circling State House in anticipation of a Cabinet reshuffle as you whip your foot soldiers into compliance with Jubilee position.

Thankfully, CS Amina and PS Okudo are apolitical, and their focus on service delivery is impeccable. Please retain them.

However, they need your hand in cushioning our sport that has been dealt a near fatal blow by Covid-19.

Sir, the Sports, Arts and Social Development Fund was seen as the turning point for Kenya’s sports development.

But while the Fund released Sh7 billion to the general Covid-19 initiative, paltry allocation has gone to cushioning sport from the pandemic.

Mheshimiwa Rais, your good CS and PS have done well in launching the food stimulus for our athletes, but that was just a drop in the ocean and more long-term solutions are necessary to keep our sportspeople afloat.

I’m sure the athletes have already exhausted the rations.

Sportspeople are as vital to our economy, in the grand scheme of things, as are businesspeople, farmers, artisans and SMEs.

Your Excellency, questions abound as to where over Sh100 billion in Fund revenues generated last year alone went to.

And given that tax on football betting rakes in huge sums for the Exchequer, why should our professional footballers in the Premier League, National League and Women’s League scatter at the sight of the landlord?

Especially with the allocation for sport from the Fund being at 35 percent?

In my conservative estimates, our professional footballers across the leagues are losing approximately Sh40 million in monthly income due to stoppage of play forced by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sir, the last time I visited Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, the number of footballers incarcerated there could easily make up one strong football team.

Should our footballers be ignored during these difficult pandemic times, Your Excellency, your officers will soon be invited to Kamiti to launch a month-long football tournament as vulnerable players turn to crime for survival.

But I’m sure you wouldn’t want to bequeath a legacy of robbers, murderers, drunks, tramps and other rustics.

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Mheshimiwa Rais, I must give you credit for personally taking interest in sports infrastructure development and kick-starting the renovations at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium, Moi International Sports Centre and Eldoret’s Kipchoge Keino Stadium.

These facilities, along with Iten’s Kamariny Stadium, among others, in fresh, world-class state, will most certainly be vital launch pads for our sportspeople’s recovery in the post-Covid-19 period.

Naturally, Sir, there is scepticism over such renovation projects as successive governments have flattered only to deceive.

Even after CS Amina’s stadiums visit to Kisumu and Eldoret last week, doubting Thomases still see this as same old rhetoric.

In fact, Your Excellency, the guards at the Kipchoge Keino’s Stadium entrance have seen as many Sports Cabinet Secretaries as the red berets manning State House gates.

From, in no particular order, Najib Balala to Ochillo Ayacko, Maina Kamanda, Ababu Namwamba, Hassan Wario, Rashid Echesa and, now, Amina Mohamed, they have all come to either inspect works at the stadium or offer pledges of reconstruction.

Let’s hope, in the next few months, these Eldoret guards will finally see CS Amina usher you in, Sir, as you arrive to officially open a refurbished Kipchoge Keino Stadium which David Rudisha will use for his speed-work sessions as he prepares to defend his Olympic 800 metres title in Tokyo.

Sir, you will have left an excellent legacy, not just for North Rift athletes, but also for global sport, given that foreign athletes flock Eldoret in droves for training in adjacent high altitude locations, including Iten, Kaptagat and Kapsabet.

Commander-in-Chief Sir, your able ADC, Lt. Col. Stelu Lekolool, may not have mentioned to you, but he was a brilliant hockey player in his high school days at Mang’u.

I’m sure he will agree with me that one of the greatest legacies you shall leave is a refurbished City Park Hockey Stadium, and further tax incentives for investors in sport.

Meanwhile, I hope to catch up with Lt. Col. Lekolool soon to follow up on unfinished business we have regarding the development of sports in his community.

Your Excellency Sir, it would require an afternoon over tea (or more potent stuff) to discuss further the needs of Kenyan sport.

I know you are quite busy, Sir, so I won’t even get into other financial requirements necessary to get Kenyan sport out of the Covid-19 pandemic, and help in the resumption of play.

Like the budget CS Amina and the federations require for testing of players for the coronavirus – especially in contact sport – before the all-clear for competition can be given by the Ministry of Health through your good office, Sir.

Or indeed the possibility of you discussing with your new CDF, General Robert Kariuki Kibochi, the drafting of more sportspeople into the Kenya Defence Forces for gainful employment, to follow in the footsteps of great sporting soldiers like Paul Tergat, Francis Onyiso and Hellen Obiri.

Finally, Your Excellency, thanks for picking Kisii County for the Madaraka Day celebrations this year.

It’s a pity that, after having supported Governor James Ongwae in refurbishing the Gusii Stadium and cleaning up the town, the curfew and travel restrictions mean that June 1 won’t bring the anticipated big celebrations to Kisii.

But I hope, Mheshimiwa Rais, when normalcy returns, you will visit Kisii County and pass by my home county of Nyamira to commission the rehabilitation of a few roads.

Like the Bondeni-Makairo-Magombo road whose tarmacking you pledged in 2017.

Sir, this road is a suitable candidate for the 2021 Rhino Charge, given its horrible state.

Mheshimiwa Rais, please pass my regards to Her Excellency the First Lady, a strong supporter of sports, and to your family in general.

May God bless you, your family, our sportsmen and women, along with our great nation of Kenya.

Wishing you good health, Sir.

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Gusii Stadium work in progress

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BENSON AYIENDA

By BENSON AYIENDA
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Despite several promises from the devolved unit that renovation work at Gusii Stadium in Kisii County was nearing completion, a lot still remains to be done six years since work started.

Renovation work at Gusii Stadium started in 2014 under Governor James Ongwae who is now serving his second and final term.

While presiding over the launch of work on the stadium, Ongwae said the facility would be upgraded to international standards in six months at a cost of Sh46 million.

But in early 2018, what could be seen at the main football stadium in Gusii region is a fence, the main pavilion with a capacity to accommodate 500 fans and a levelled playing ground.

Construction work had stalled under unclear circumstances.

During the same period, a committee appointed by Kisii County Assembly to investigate the state of the stadium reported that the sports department spent funds in unclear circumstances.

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The committee revealed that whereas the project was meant to cost Sh46 million initially, some Sh52 million had been spent by the time the project stalled.

The report released by committee chairperson Evans Mokoro indicated that work on the sports facility had been poorly done despite a huge budgetary allocation.

“The committee received a status report of projects from the department for the year 2015-2016 on October 21, 2018 and after going through it, we resolved to carry out a site visit to inspect the level of implementation,” Mokoro told Nation Sport last week.

According to the report, Sh52 million was allocated to finish the renovation work at the stadium but officials from the Department of Public Works failed to provide the bill of quantities, names of contractors and minutes of the meeting during which the payments were approved.

A section of the spectator stands at Gusii
A section of the spectator stands at Gusii Stadium in this photo taken on May 17, 2020. PHOTO | BENSON AYIENDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The committee recommended that the contractors who did not work but were paid be blacklisted and be barred for three years from working for Kisii County government.

The committee also resolved to closely monitor contractors who were still working, and payment be done only after completion of the project.

Afterwards, the county government embarked on major renovations inside the stadium to make it suitable for hosting major sporting disciplines.

A spot-check by Nation Sport shows that an underground irrigation and drainage system was installed on the playing surface and Kikuyu grass planted.

In the second phase, two spectator stands were built, each with capacity for 500 fans. An inner perimeter wall was constructed, although it is not up to standard. No work has been done on the running track, despite the county being home to top athletes, among them world 10,000 metres champion Hellen Obiri.

Another athletics legend from the region is the late Nyandika Maiyoro, a pioneer Kenyan athlete who won fame internationally while competing for Kenya as a British colony in 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia.

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Nyanza South Athletics Kenya (AK) chairman Peter Angwenyi has in the past raised concerns over the poor state of running track at the stadium.

“As Athletics Kenya (AK) technical officials, we have received complaints about the type of sand that is put at Gusii Stadium which is of poor quality,” Angwenyi said last Wednesday.

“I appeal to the county government to put up a tartan running track at the stadium. As AK, we will guide them on how to lay modern running track at the stadium to meet international standards.”

An eight-lane running track has left no room for installation of facilities for steeplechase, with athletics officials recommending that the lanes be moved further inside or outside the outer lane.

The stadium is currently being prepared to host Madaraka Day celebrations on June 1, but that is doubtful due to Coronavirus pandemic.

The construction work is being funded by the national government in conjunction with the county government which injected Sh60 million towards the project. Once complete, the 2,000-seater stadium will accommodate 12,000 people.

The county government did not provide us with the artistic impression of the structure despite repeated requests.

On Tuesday, there was a beehive of activity at the stadium as the contractor was racing against time to finish the work before Madaraka Day.

Already 10 new spectator stands, each with a seating capacity of 800, are up in addition to another two that have been in place. Final touches are being done on the main dais, which will have a capacity for 2,000 VIPs.

Other features that will be added include holding areas for VIPs at the main dais, lights, water points as well as parking area.

For the convenience of competing teams, two new changing rooms fitted with modern amenities will be incorporated in the main pavilion.

The county’s Chief Officer for Sports, Abel Sagini, said the devolved unit will purchase two 10,000-litre water tanks for irrigating grass inside the stadium.

“We are in the process of planting Kikuyu grass on the playing surface. We will also improve the drainage system which has a small problem,” he said.

Asked whether the running track will be upgraded, Sagini said: “The budget is not enough. For now we will use murram.”

Speaking during an inspection tour of the grounds, Public Works Principal Secretary, Gordon Kihalangwa, said a multi-agency team would remain on the ground to ensure the work is completed on schedule.

“There will be a beehive of activity in the stadium and I am optimistic construction will be finalised in the shortest time possible,” he said.

Football Kenya Federation National Super League team Shabana FC, Division One teams Gusii Football Club, Gusii Starlets and Resolution Kisii use the stadium for their home matches.

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Nothing to show for Sh109m spent on Manga Stadium

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BENSON AYIENDA

By BENSON AYIENDA
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Some Sh109 million has been pumped into the construction of Manga Stadium in Nyamira County since 2014, but there is nothing to show for it.

A visit to the facility that was meant to be constructed from the ground up to international standards in the talent-rich region shows that very little work has been done.

Six years later, only a fence and a foundation stone for the construction of the main pavilion is all that stands on the parcel of land measuring roughly eight hectares where the stadium ought to have been.

Nyamira County is home to athletics legends, among them Charles Asati and the late Robert Ouko, both members of Kenya’s 4×400 metres relay team that won the first Olympic gold medal for the country at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.

The other two athletes who were in the team are Hezekiah Nyamao from Kisii County and the late Julius Sang from Kapsabet.

Nyamira County may not produce star athletes like Asati and Ouko because work on the only public sports facility available for use has stalled.

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In the 2014-2015 financial year, the county government injected Sh63 million into the project but all the money went into fencing and drilling of a borehole at the facility, according to the county’s executive for sports, Johnston Obike.

He said another Sh10 million was used the following financial year in levelling the playing surface. Another Sh36 million was allocated to the same project in 2018-2019 financial year but surprisingly, no work was done.

According to Obike, the stadium was scheduled to be constructed in four phases over four years but the project has encountered a lot delays and the work will now be finalised in 2022.

“After completing levelling of the grounds in 2016, no contractor qualified for the other work inside the stadium and hence the project was suspended until last year when we got a qualified contractor. The contractor has been on site since July last year working on the main pavilion,” Obike said.

The first phase would involve putting on of the fence, drainage system, levelling of the playing surface and drilling of boreholes and was set to take one year to completion.

The second phase of the project that was approximated to take one and half years will involve construction of the main pavilion with a capacity to accommodate 2,000 VIPs, installation of an irrigation system on the pitch and laying of a running track inside the stadium.

The the third phase of the project involved construction of six spectator stands and areas for indoor games, which was meant to take a year.

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Another year would be spent in laying an artificial track inside the stadium and security lights during the fourth and final phase.

The playing surface at Manga Stadium in this
The playing surface at Manga Stadium in this photo taken on May 23, 2020. PHOTO | BENSON AYIENDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The tender for constructing the main pavilion, the running track and installation of irrigation and drainage system on the playing surface was awarded to Saumo Enterprise Limited Company. The company was also meant to plant grass inside the stadium.

A spot check by Nation Sport on Friday established that only fencing and levelling of the playing surface has been done and the foundation for construction of the main pavilion laid.

Angelina Moturu who is the contractor told Nation Sport at the site that she started the work in January, adding that the main pavilion will be complete in July while work on the running track and the playing surface will be completed next year.

“The county government has paid half of the money and we are determined to finish the work in the shortest time possible,” she said.

She cited poor topography in the region that does not favour construction of a stadium as the main challenge. She further expressed fear that the work may delay owing to Covid-19 pandemic.

The pitch had earlier been planned to measure 51 metres by 90 metres but Football Kenya Federation (FKF) objected.

The federation and the contractor later resolved that the pitch be extended to measure 51m by 100m.

Once complete, the facility will have a main stand and a VIP area with a seating capacity for 4,000 people. There will also be two spectators stands, each with capacity for 1,400 fans. The stadium will accommodate about 10,000 people.

Other intended improvements include construction of standard changing rooms, nursing rooms and an inner perimeter fence as well as installation of security lights.

Nyamira County does not have teams in the top football leagues.

Governor John Nyagarama, who is serving his second and final term, has been at pains to explain why the stadium is incomplete. He has since requested financial support from the national government, saying the devolved unit lacks adequate funds to complete the stalled facility.

“As a county government, we have tried our best but constructing the stadium requires a lot of money which we do not have at the moment,” he said.

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