Turkana, the second largest county in Kenya after Marsabit, does not have a single stadium.
Lodwar, a vibrant town which hosts the county headquarters, has no single stadium but the region is teaming with youth who have embraced sports despite the harsh climate.
The few playing grounds available for use in the county have no grass pitches, just sandy fields with no stands or terraces. At the site of the proposed Lodwar Stadium, players normally engage in football matches as fans watch in the scorching heat from the sun. Many calls have been made to both the national and county governments to build a standard stadium to motivate youth from the region to play football but not much has been done.
Next to the busy Lodwar Airport that witnesses at least eight flights daily, lies Lodwar GK Prison Grounds.
When Nation Sport team arrived at the grounds, we found it decorated with used motor vehicle tires of different sizes all round. The management of the corrective facility has planted trees round it in the hope that they will grow fast to protect football fans from scorching heat from the sun and temperatures that sometimes go above 40 degrees Celsius.
When it rains, the grounds experience flooding, forcing suspension of matches. That has been the fate of budding footballers who hope to to become future stars. But there have been good stories from Turkana. Last year, 14-year-old Issa Emuria emerged the best goalkeeper in the inaugural edition of Copa Coca-Cola Under-16 Africa Cup of Nations football tournament. Emuria’s team St Anthony’s Boys Kitale won the title in the tournament played at Afraha Stadium in Nakuru County.
Countries that competed in the tournament include African football powerhouses Nigeria, Ethiopia, Zambia, Uganda, Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania, Malawi, Angola and Zimbabwe.
Before joining St Anthony’s Boys, Emuria was among the top talents that endured harsh weather conditions when playing for Islamic Football Club junior team.
Turkana County Sports Chief Officer Jacob Lolelea said the devolved unit plans to set up a 20, 000-seater stadium about nine kilometres from Lodwar town.
“We are at the preparatory stage of a standard stadium. The design is inspired by an iconic bowl called Atubwa which is used for carrying blood and milk among the Turkana. Larger versions are used by pastoralists for watering livestock and the shape resembles a stadium,” Lolelea said.
He said that the county department of public works has developed a design of the stadium, and will come up with a bill of quantities and total estimates.
The county is working with a Spanish architect to design the stadium to be built on a 50-acre piece of land at Ekaales Trading Centre that attracts more than 10, 000 visitors during the annual Turkana County Tourism and Cultural Festival.
“We are the preliminary stage. At the moment, Sh50 million has been allocated for the initial stage of the work. We will allocate money for the stadium on each budget period because it will take long to construct,” he said.
He added former Agricultural Society of Kenya showground in Lodwar town is also being upgraded. Turkana is home to Kakuma United FC and Nawoitorong Rangers which compete in Western Zone B of Football Kenya Federation Division Two League.
Tomorrow: Focus on Molo Stadium in Nakuru County