As you enter Kericho Green Stadium in Kericho County, the beauty of the green pitch hits you at the same time as fresh air perhaps from the surrounding tea plantations.
The stadium is home to Kenya Premier League side Zoo Football Club.
The county government is in the process of building more terraces at the 5,000-seater venue. Compared to what we have seen in the other stadiums that we toured, Kericho Green Stadium is a project that can be improved.
While the footballers enjoy the well kempt pitch, which resembles a carpet, athletes have been left to scramble for space at Kericho Teachers Training College track as the stadium’s track is tarmacked and a synthetic surface has not been laid since 2017.
The athletes have to plan their schedule around two days (Tuesday and Thursday) that they have been allocated for speed work sessions at the college. Clearly, there is little regard for the world beaters, who have been neglected despite bringing glory to the country through their winning exploits across the globe. They fault the county government for taking too long to lay the synthetic track which would come in handy especially during the rainy season.
We get here just in time to find Governor Paul Chepkwony supervising final repairs as the venue was being prepared to host the just concluded Kenya Inter-Counties Sports and Cultural Association (Kicosca) Games.
“The stadium has cost the county government a total of Sh60 million including the laying of synthetic on the track which we are in the process of acquiring. We want to help the sportsmen and women in this region by rewarding them with better facilities,” said Chepkwony.
From ball games to athletics, the stadium has a rich history of elevating the standards of sports at local, regional, national and international levels.
According to Athletics Kenya (AK) Kericho branch chairman Japheth Kemei, 1964 Tokyo Olympic 800 metres bronze medallist Wilson Kiprugut Chumo - the first African to win a medal in the Olympics -, former 5,000m Commonwealth Games champion Mercy Cherono, Lydia Chepkirui 3,000 metres steeplechase silver medallist, Edwin Soi two times Olympian and Ferguson Rotich have all used Kericho Green Stadium at some point in their careers.
Kipng'eno Chelule, an AK official said: “This stadium played a key role in nurturing sporting talents in the South Rift region with athletes using the field not only for training but also for regional and national competitions.”
Chelule says the stadium is currently being utilised for speed work and endurance by athletes from various athletics clubs (Sigowet, Lomotit and Kericho) besides individual athletes and institutions. This, despite the works taking too long to complete.
Many football greats in the country including Peter Dawo, perhaps the best header in Kenya’s history, honed his skills at Kericho stadium having played for Brooke Bond FC which was a local team. Josephat Murila is another football great who has Kericho Green Stadium to thank for his career.
Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards played out epic battles at Kericho stadium in the 1980s. It was then the home ground for Kericho All Stars and Brooke Bond.
Kipsigis Girls High School, Kericho High School, Finlay Tea, Unilever Tea grounds have now become alternatives for the talented and upcoming sportsmen and women in the region.
Tomorrow: Focus on Narok Stadium.