Forget about Chan and focus on realistic long-term goals

Tuesday September 5 2017

Construction work goes on at Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret town on September 4, 2017. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA |

Construction work goes on at Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret town on September 4, 2017. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ELIAS MAKORI
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The country has reverted to its default campaign mode following the Supreme Court of Kenya’s nullification of the Presidential election.

For the next two months or so, focus will be on spirited presidential campaigns and, most certainly, the pressure will be on the exchequer to release additional funds — and urgently at that ­— for the fresh electoral process.

Of course, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission must have budgeted for such eventuality, but we all know the national coffers will nonetheless also take some beating in the process.

Meanwhile, with health, security and infrastructure high on the government’s financial agenda, there’s no doubt sports will not feature near the top of Finance Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich’s bulging in-tray.

I’m naturally not a pessimist, but after carefully studying the current scenario, I don’t see Kenya hosting the Africa Nations Championships (Chan).

Let’s forget about it. As usual, we left it too late and we are now clutching at straws, hoping the Confederation of African Football (Caf) will be generous enough to offer us “extra time” to get our house in order.

Successive regimes have given sports a raw deal and it was, therefore, pleasantly surprising that the Jubilee government pulled out all stops to allow Nairobi successfully host the IAAF World Under-18 Championships last month.

I say “successfully” with a lot of reservations, though, as after having put up a splendid show at the August 12-16 championships, quite a number of service providers and individuals who contributed to the success of these championships are yet to be paid their dues.

Volunteers, who were exceptionally resourceful during the championships, had to stage sit-ins for the Local Organising Committee’s purse-strings to loosen up and pay them, while members of various committee are still pushing for their hard-earned payments.

While Sports Kenya maintain there are no funds coming through from their parent ministry in charge of sports to settle outstanding debts for the Under-18s providers and committee members, they, ironically, claim cash flows are good enough for the country to be ready for Chan.

Really?

Such inconsistencies make it difficult to trust any assurances that Kenya will be ready to host the Chan, a nondescript championship that counts for little.

Also, some of the venues earmarked for the Chan matches are far from complete, with Eldoret’s Kipchoge Keino Stadium, for instance, a construction site that will require a miracle to be ready to host Chan matches by January.

Over-reliance on the exchequer has been the main undoing of Kenya’s sports set-up, the more reason I always insist we need an independent mechanism to raise funds for sports development.

The national sports lottery remains in the backburner even after scores of private outfits have made a killing from football lotteries, some of which hardly give back to the development of Kenya’s sports infrastructure.

Even though fresh legislation, through the Sports Act, gave birth to a National Sports Fund, we are yet to see any serious fund-raising programmes at play to make Kenyan sport self-financing.

The current situation with Chan is even more annoying given than in 1996, Kenya failed to host the more prestigious Africa Cup of Nations tournament for the same reasons of lack of preparedness and the absence of government guarantees, let alone standard venues.

South Africa were on stand-by and eventually won the rights to host the 1996 competition, going on to build on the success of this championship (which Bafana Bafana, incidentally, won) to successfully stage the Fifa Confederations Cup in 2009 and, eventually, the Fifa World Cup in 2010.

Kenya should be realistic, forget about hosting Chan and instead focus on developing infrastructure and drawing realistic, long-term bidding plans that will spare us the embarrassment we are currently enduring in this Chan circus.

And in this grand scheme of things, county governments remain pivotal as over-reliance on national government funding will take us nowhere.

Already, several counties continue to set aside healthy sports budgets with some, including Mombasa, Uasin Gishu, Nandi and Bungoma, launching the construction of stadiums and training camps that will spur the development of sporting talent.

We should ride on the success of these devolved units to target bigger national goals, like hosting a pan-African competition.

That Caf postponed their crucial inspection of Kenya’s Chan venues is euphemism for the African body’s feeling that Kenya will not pull it off, and that they would rather, quietly, prepare standby hosts to carry the baby.

At this rate, even hosting the Confederation of East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa) Senior Challenge Cup in November will be a tall order for an equally beleaguered and cash-strapped Football Kenya Federation.

Let’s be realistic and stop putting the cart before the horse.