For long, Kwale town has lived in the shadows of Ukunda, playing second fiddle to the latter in every sense despite being Kwale County’s headquarters.
Ukunda is a tourism haven with top-of-the-range accommodation facilities among other infrastructure, it is bustling with activity, majorly trade.
However, a Sh450 million state of the art stadium is expected to elevate the status of Kwale and position it as a befitting county headquarters.
Increased sporting activities, once the stadium is complete, is expected to change the face of Kwale town.
The much talked about Kwale Stadium is slowly taking shape, and this is good news for the residents of the otherwise sleepy South Coast.
Work is already going on in phase one of the project. Kwale County Government Chief Officer in Charge of Social Services and Talent Management Francisca Kilonzo said phase one of the project will take 150 days to be completed.
When Nation Sport team visited the construction site last week, work was underway on the main dais and workers were preparing to build the pavilion and terraces.
Kilonzo said the dressing room, gymnasium, and stores for equipment will be done in phase one. Also being worked on in the initial 3,000-seater facility is a nine-lane athletics track and a Fifa standard grass football field.
Kilonzo said grass will be sampled from a nursery and the one found suitable for the climatic conditions of the area will be planted.
“We have started work in earnest and are keeping an eye on the contractor to ensure he delivers phase one of the project within 150 days as agreed. We then plan to embark on phase two of the project which is divided into three phases,” she said.
Kilonzo said that although they are confident in Kikuyu grass, there are several other varieties of grass samples in the nursery that will be tried out.
She said that in phase two of the project, the tartan track will be laid and seating area expanded.
Also expected to feature in phase two is a multi-purpose warm up pitch which will also have two volleyball courts, a netball and basketball court which will also serve as a tennis court.
In phase three, parking space, flood lights, advertising boards and periphery attachments for broadcasting will be set up.
High-end hotels and other businesses are expected to spring up once the stadium is up and running. This will open up Kwale town.
Kilonzo said after work is accomplished at Kwale Stadium, focus will shift to Ukunda Stadium. A spot check by Nation Sport at Ukunda Stadium last week found that the facility had been turned into a temporary market.
“I do not want to talk about Ukunda Stadium, at least for now, because there is a special committee comprising county executive officers that has been constituted on look into how best the stadium can be upgraded,” she said.
Approximately 4.1 percent of the world’s population (roughly 265 million people) play football regularly, making it the world’s most popular sport.
Locally, Kwale County has produced some of Kenya’s finest footballers who have gone on to play for the national team. But this is mind-boggling, considering that Kwale County does not have a standard sports stadium. Former Harambee Stars goalkeeper Bakari Juma, Mwinyi Juma, Hassan Juma, Hassan Zengo, Binzi Mwakolo, Razak Siwa, Omar Hussein and Rajab Ramadhan are some of the best players to have come from Kwale County.
At the moment, national secondary schools football champions St Anthony's High School Kitale, which has eight players from Kwale County in its ranks, are basking in glory, having also represented Kenya at the East African School Games.
National schools runners-up Dagoretti High School from Nairobi and national under-16 football champions Serani Secondary School have also been propelled to great heights by players drawn from Kwale County.
For some time now, Kwale County schools have dominated Coast secondary schools football competitions, with Waa Boys High School, Shimba Hills Secondary School, Kinondo Secondary School, Kaya Tiwi Secondary School and Kwale High School the stand out teams.
In 2018, Kwale Girls not only won their maiden national football title, but also clinched the East Africa Secondary Schools Games football title in Rwanda. Kaya Tiwi has dominated basketball and netball at the national and regional level.
But talent from these schools often goes to waste after students leave school because of lack of investment in sports facilities.
That partly explains why there has never been a team from Kwale in the Kenyan Premier League, despite the huge football talent in the county.
Ukundu and Mzimuni playgrounds in Ukunda, the main football venues in Kwale County, are more popular with the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) trade fairs than football matches.
National Super League teams, among them SS Assad, Matuga Heroes and Vimbwanga, use the venues for their home matches.
Other sportsgrounds in the county are Libra, Kombani Force, Msambweni grounds, Gasi grounds, Lunga Lunga grounds, Shika Adabu grounds and Ngombeni Secondary.