Approximately 4.1 per cent of the world’s population (roughly 265 million people) plays football professionally, making it the world’s most popular sport.
The global interest and increased competitiveness of the sport has made elite clubs to scout for top talent throughout the world. Locally, Kwale County has produced some of Kenya’s finest footballers who have gone on to play for the national teams, but this is mind-boggling, considering that the 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, secondary schools national football champions St Anthony's High School Kitale, with eight players from Kwale County in its ranks, are basking in national glory, having also represented Kenya at the East African School Games.
National runners-up Dagoretii High from Nairobi and national Under-16 football champions Serani Secondary have also been propelled to great heights by players drawn from Kwale County.
Kwale schools have done well
For some time now, Kwale County schools have dominated Coast secondary schools football competitions, with Waa Boys, Shimba Hills, Kinondo Secondary, Kaya Tiwi and Kwale High the stand-out teams.
Last year, Kwale Girls not only won their maiden national football title, but also won the East Africa secondary schools football title in Rwanda. Kaya Tiwi Secondary has dominated basketball and netball at national and regional level.
But talent from these schools often disappear into the oblivion after school, thanks to 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 talent.
Ukundu and Mzimuni playgrounds in Ukunda, the main football venues in Kwale County, are more popular with Agricultural Society of Kenya 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.
Kwale County government plans to start work on Sh400 million Kwale County Sports and Talent Centre. Construction is expected to be complete by June next year.
According to Kwale County Chief Executive in charge of Sports, Bangale Ramadhan, the sports complex will also have basketball and netball courts, volleyball fields and an athletics track.
“We are at the initial stage, and the pitch is already levelled. We are working on the running track and the drainage for the 15,000-seater sports complex which will change the face of ports in Kwale County,” Ramadhan told Nation Sport.
Ramadhan said the county government has engaged the National Youth Service to ensure construction work is completed on schedule.
“Our school Kaya Tiwi Secondary has been dominating netball and girls’ basketball competitions at the national level and in East Africa for a while and that is why we plan to build a sports complex that will also have netball and basketball courts to encourage youth to take up the two sports,” Bangale said, adding that June 30 next year is the deadline.
Apart from two changing rooms, the sports complex will have an area for indoor games, terraces, and a state-of-the art amphitheatre to promote culture and the arts.
The county government, Ramadhan said, will set aside Sh9 million for refurbishment of Ukunda grounds which has been the main venue for county teams.
Part of the money, he said, will be used to put up a perimeter wall, a pavilion and terraces. National Division One team SS Assad from Kwale County which uses the stadium will be a direct beneficiary of the renovation work as it will host its matches at the facility instead of having to rely on KPA Mbaraki Sports ground.
The county government plans to build netball, basketball and volleyball courts at Ukunda grounds.