If counties were to be awarded for having the best artistic impression of stadiums in Kenya, Murang’a would win hands down.
Driving along Maragua-Gakoigo-Kigumo road in Murang’a County, one cannot fail to see a white signage of Gakoigo Stadium erected by the contractor. The signage promises a very modern stadium with a pristine pitch.
Murang’a County Governor Mwangi Wairia is in his sixth year in office and you would expect that the stadium project is now complete. But upon driving into the stadium, you get the feeling that you have made a wrong turn and ended up in someone’s yard. The only complete thing in the stadium is a perimeter wall and even then, there is no gate. Gakoigo Stadium in Maragua was established in 1960s as an arena for agricultural trade fare, public rallies and sports.
The grounds are regularly used by Athletics Kenya Central Branch to stage cross country meetings and track competitions. A few structures from the past, including a spectator tower, exhibition stands, two terraces and old exotic and indigenous trees still stand.
The dusty red loam soil on the pitch, rusty goalposts and a steeplechase pool filled with rocks and plastic containers are enough evidence that sports is not a priority for leaders in the area. Area Member of County Assembly Zablon Machugu blamed the county government for not doing enough to develop the facility.
“This is supposed to be the county’s sports hub because there is enough space for everything. The county government should have prioritised this stadium to not only promote sporting talent but also the economy of this place,” said Machugu.
Asked how much money the county government has allocated for upgrading the stadium, the Nginda Ward representative said he had no clue, bringing to question his oversight role in the county.
And approximately 15 kilometres away in Kiharu Constituency, the situation is not any different at the popular Ihura Stadium situated along Kenyatta Highway in Murang’a town.
A contractor’s signage hidden between an old ablution block and the gate paints a picture of a modern sports facility but the reality on the ground is different.
The county government has installed seven floodlights around the stadium, sunk a borehole to irrigate the grass and erected a perimeter wall around the facility. There are also three access gates and a main gate. The stadium is popular with political rallies especially during electioneering period.
Unlike the expansive Gakoigo Stadium, Ihura Stadium sits on smaller parcel of land that can’t accommodate a standard sports facility.
There is also Mumbi Stadium, just five minute’s drive east of Ihura Stadium along Maragua-Sagana road. The county plans to use Mumbi Stadium as the main venue for football. A county sports official who sought anonymity because he is not authorised to comment on the matter said an inner perimeter wall be constructed in the stadium this month.
Besides a strong perimeter wall around it, nothing much by way of construction has taken place inside the facility which is also popular with political rallies and church crusades. But General Kago Stadium in Kangema is just an open ground located right behind Kangema townships.
Murang’a Sports Executive Edward Muiruri, the county has undertaken a ‘continuous programme’ aimed at transforming the stadiums.
“We have earmarked nine stadiums for upgrading in all the eight sub-counties in Murang’a to at least national status,” said Muiruri, adding that the county has set aside Sh100 million in the 2019/2020 financial year for the same.
At the moment, the county government has prioritised work on Ihura, Mumbi and Gakoigo stadiums, Muiruri said, but he declined to state how much money has been allocated for each stadium or when the work is expected to be complete.
Other stadiums lined up for upgrading are Matenjagwo in Kandara, Kahuro, Gatanga grounds, Kigumo and Rurii in Mathioya.
The county is also focusing to have several sports academies for athletics, football and volleyball which will be operated during holidays particularly around Aberdare ranges to take advantage of the high altitude.