For over 100 years, Lamu County has been attracting tens of thousands of Muslims from all over the world for the annual Maulid festivities to celebrate the birth of prophet Mohammad.
Muslim faithful from Oman, England, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan and West Africa flock to the island town for the event traditionally held at Riyadha grounds.
At this celebrations, donkey and horse racing, athletics, football and cultural competitions take place with over 20 teams participating.
Top government dignitaries, a majority of them Muslims, grace these festivities which have become a must attend for all Muslims locally.
It is, however, sad to note that no consideration has ever been made to construct a stadium in Lamu that could not only be used for the festivities but also be used by the youth to nurture their talents.
The dusty Twaifu grounds has remained the only venue for football teams in Lamu among them Diplomat, Jaws, Horo Horo and Alnasir who at one time featured in the unified Coast Provincial League and gave a good account of themselves.
Lamu has over 20 football clubs that are forced to use pitches in deplorable conditions.
These are the pitches that have produced stars like Ali Kombo, Hussein Langra and Nahodha Ali who have all featured in the Kenyan Premier league in the past.
Himdat Mohammed, a Lamu native and student at Kaya Tiwi Secondary won the long jump and triple jump events at the Coast Secondary School’s athletics championship and finished third in the same events at the nationals.
Despite not having any meaningful basketball court in Lamu, Kaya Tiwi girls basketball team won the National Secondary Schools Basketball title in Lamu last year guided by the precocious talents of Himdat Mohammed, Rukia Mohammed, Medina Mohamed and Swabra Abdallah.
Lamu Sub-Branch Football Kenya Federation vice secretary Hussein Miji is not happy with the state of affairs saying it’s not acceptable that for decades, Lamu has had to endure a neglected sports sector, a situation that has seen majority of the sports infrastructure in the region left in deplorable state.
Miji cited Twaif and Shella grounds as some of the venues that can be given major upgrades to measure up to national and international standards.
“We don’t have a single standard sports stadium in Lamu at the moment. We only use pitches which are in deplorable conditions. The only football pitch that we can rely on is Shella Bright Star playground which is a private ground belonging to the Shella Association,” he said.
Miji said the county government of Lamu has on several occasions promised to upgrade the Twaif public playground to a modern stadium but so far nothing has materialised.
Yahya Athman, a football player in Lamu, said lack of standard stadiums have greatly affected their general playing standards.
“We’re forced to play beach football instead of the real football here. Most of the football pitches are sandy. Once we travel to play outside Lamu, we end up losing our matches because we’re not used to playing on a level playground. Something needs to be done to save the sports sector here,” Athman said.
Contacted, Lamu County Chief Officer for Youth Affairs, Gender, Sports, Culture and Social Services, Joseph Ng’ang’a said discussions were already underway to identify two sites in Lamu East and West Sub-Counties where stadiums will be constructed to international standards.
Ng’ang’a said Lamu County government was targeting Muungano Playground in Mpeketoni in Lamu West and Faza Town playground in Lamu East for upgrading to international stadia standards soonest possible.
“We as a county government met this week and allocated Sh65 million to be used to construct the two pitches to the required standards,” he said adding that construction of the two playgrounds will, however, be undertaken in phases.
He revealed they were in the process of renovating smaller pitches across the county, including both the 11 and 7-a-side pitches in Mkomani, Mpeketoni and Witu areas in a move to improve the sector.
“We have almost completed levelling and general renovation of playgrounds such as Witu, Tchundwa, Kiunga, Mpeketoni and Mkomani and Faza areas,” he said. Already, Sh29 million has been set aside for the projects.