The dusty and dilapidated Rongai Sports Ground is a crying shame of a sub-county that is home of Presidents, top businessmen and world renowned farmers.
The little known sub-county in Nakuru County has produced political leaders, leading businessmen and farmers who have transformed the country’s economic and political landscape. It is against this enterprising background that one would expect to have a top notch sports facility to boot.
Both Kenya’s first and second Presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi have homes in Rongai and the fourth President, Uhuru Kenyatta, is a regular visitor to his expansive Gicheha farm in Rongai.
And when he wants to meet residents, the Rongai Sports Ground is the ideal place from where to pass his message.
One of Kenya’s leading cattle breeders who has put the country on the world map, Hamish Grant resides in this township.
But it is Tuskys and Naivas, Kenya’s top supermarket chains, which trace their roots to a small grocery shop - Rongai Self-Service Stores - that gave birth to the giant supermarkets.
Rongai Township, located some four kilometres off the Nakuru–Eldoret Highway at the Salgaa junction, is forgotten as far as sporting facilities are concerned.
Interestingly, even with such big names in the list of who-is-who in the economic and political landscape, the decaying sporting infrastructure is yet to be addressed.
The only public sporting ground is sandwiched between Rongai Boys High School — which has produced leading scholars in the country — and eyesore timber kiosks. On the opposite side is a social hall and open air market place ringed with makeshift structures that have encroached the playing ground.
It is hard to know whether the five acres’ open ground is a sporting field as boda boda operators criss-cross the bare playing surface while the cows and sheep graze on patches of grass near the goal posts.
The metal bench meant for players resembles a seat that has been removed from a written-off bus and it has no roof to shield players from the harsh weather conditions.
Also, there is no visible signage to identify the field as there is no gate.
The first thing that one notices as you enter the open field are grazing cattle and sheep, a newly-constructed Rongai Social Hall, kiosks that ring the field and an open cemetery.
Due to bad state of the field, budding athletes from the region no longer train there and are forced to shelve their training programmes or train along tarmac roads or go to the Kabarak University.
The horrible pitch is home ground to Rongai Queens, who feature in the women’s Division One League, and Rongai FC which features in the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Division Two League. Other local clubs which uses the pitch include Central Business District (CBD) FC, Dam Boys, Gicheha FC, Rongai Boda Boda FC among others.
FKF’s Nakuru sub-branch secretary Eliakim Mbalilwa states the obvious, saying the pitch needs massive upgrading.
“It is a shame we have such a pathetic pitch. The county should start renovations by putting up a permanent perimeter wall to curb movement of boda bodas and vehicles during half-time.
“The pitch also needs a shade to shield players from rains and scorching sunshine,” said Mbalilwa.
Simon Mburu, who turns for CBD FC, says when it rains, the pitch is turned into a mud bath.
“Many players are nursing injuries after falling on this rough patches and I urged the Governor Lee Kinyanjui and his administration to upgrade the pitch to the required playing standards,” says Mburu.
A resident, Justus Omae Omari, adds that many football players were suffering injuries due to bad state of the pitch.
Nakuru County Executive in charge of Sports, Culture, Gender and Social Services Lucy Kariuki told Nation Sport that the devolved unit has set aside funds to put up a perimeter wall.
“I can confirm that we have set aside funds to put up a perimeter wall in the 2020/2021 financial year,” said Kariuki.
Kariuki added that the county “has elaborate plans to improve the sporting infrastructure at the facility to ensure budding sportsmen discover their talents.”
It remains to be seen if such claims will be followed up by action to elevate the ground to usable standards and help grow the area’s talent.