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Years later, City Stadium literally crying out for help

Thursday May 21 2020

Part of the dilapidated playing surface at the Nairobi City Stadium on May 20, 2020. PHOTO | DAVID KWALIMWA |

Part of the dilapidated playing surface at the Nairobi City Stadium on May 20, 2020. PHOTO | DAVID KWALIMWA |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

DAVID KWALIMWA
By DAVID KWALIMWA
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A notice pinned on Nairobi City Stadium's main gate indicates the 6,000 seater facility has been temporarily been closed "due to ongoing construction."

But there's no sight of a contractor or workers on site.

A notice pinned on Nairobi City Stadium's main
A notice pinned on Nairobi City Stadium's main gate indicates the 6,000 seater facility has been temporarily been closed "due to ongoing construction" on May 20, 2020. PHOTO | DAVID KWALIMWA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

One of the most emotional scenes witnessed in this stadium in recent times has to be that of a section of Gor Mahia players, led by mercurial midfielder Rama Salim, wailing uncontrollably while rolling on the artificial turf after a league match versus Thika United which ended one-all.

That was in November 2012, after K'Ogalo dramatically lost the league title to Robert Matano's Tusker on the final day of that season.

A section of the the club's supporters, seasoned journalists included, also shed tears on the day even as the then coach Zdravko Logarusic, now handling the Zimbabwe national team, covered his face in disappointment.

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Years later, it is the facility that is literally crying out for help.

One of the entrances to the Nairobi City
One of the entrances to the Nairobi City Stadium in this photo taken on May 20, 2020. PHOTO | DAVID KWALIMWA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The artificial turf remains worn out that black chippings have emerged from beneath to occupy most of the surface.

The perimeter fence is intact but the grass within the facility has grown into dangerous patches of bushes.

The goal posts and substitutes dugout resemble a scrap metal dumping site.

A further tour around the facility shows it is in a far worse shape compared to five years ago, when administrators ruled it was not fit to host competitive football matches.

A few athletes are seen hovering around the stadium looking for a best patch to train but there is hardly any.

A footballer changes his attire before starting
A footballer changes his attire before starting his training at the Nairobi City Stadium on May 20, 2020. PHOTO | DAVID KWALIMWA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A footballer warms up on the dilapidated
A footballer warms up on the dilapidated playing surface at the Nairobi City Stadium on May 20, 2020. PHOTO | DAVID KWALIMWA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Nation Sport understands Lexus International Company was awarded the contract to renovate phase one of this stadium last year.

The firm has since embarked on building new toilets and shower rooms, a VIP lounge, changing rooms, offices, parking lot and terraces.

"The repairs have stopped because of the coronavirus and also because the same company is working on Nyayo Stadium which is a priority," said a worker at the facility, who spoke to Nation Sport off the record.

The stadium also has a parking lot within and outside the premises but these have been subject to scrutiny amid security fears.

While the terraces appear to be in a far better shape compared to the last time Nation Sport toured this facility last September, the rest of the repairs are hardly 50-percent done.

Phase two, it is believed, will involve replacement of both the artificial turf and running track, fixing the drainage system and additional terraces.

A contractor has yet to be awarded this job amid reports of confusion as to whether the project will be supervised by the Nairobi governor Mike Sonko, or the recently formed Nairobi Metropolitan Services led by Major General Mohammed Badi.

City Stadium was last spruced up in 2010 and that effort was not even from the government.

Rather, the then Kenya Football Federation (KFF) management led by Mohammed Hatimy and Titus Kasuve managed to convince world governing body Fifa to inject Sh25 million into renovating the stadium under the "Win in Africa for Africa" program.

Fifa also bought the artificial turf and flew in engineers to ensure it is installed.

Part of the dilapidated playing surface at the
Part of the dilapidated playing surface at the Nairobi City Stadium on May 20, 2020. PHOTO | DAVID KWALIMWA |

FALSE PROMISES

"These new facilities are primarily to promote youth football. This is also intended to develop domestic competitions, train African executives, promote sports medicine and address topical issues relating to the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa," a statement on Fifa's website states in part.

Meanwhile, Kenyan politicians have issued promise after promise in relation to the stadium's renovations.

Others have opted to launch Sh100 million worth of football tournaments at the facility. But the dream of having a fully refurbished City Stadium capable of hosting Kenyan Premier League and international matches remains a mirage.

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