Kenyan football fans this year missed out on a lifetime opportunity to watch European giants Atletico Madrid play in Nairobi owing to a lack of appropriate sports stadium.
Speaking during a press seminar at a Nairobi hotel yesterday, La Liga’s East Africa representative Oliver Dodd revealed that the reigning Europa League champions instead elected to tour Nigeria where Fernando Torres helped Diego Simeone's team defeat the Super Eagles 3-2.
“If we would have had that fixture in Nairobi maybe Atletico would have played against Gor Mahia. We failed to find a suitable venue in the country,” he said.
Atletico is also home to a galaxy of football stars including Frenchmen Antoine Griezman and Thomas Lemar, Felipe Luis, Diego Costa, and Slovakian keeper Jan Oblak.
He said that at the time representatives from the Spanish giants toured the country, Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani was still under renovations. “The authorities couldn't give guarantees on when the works will finish. That was about the same time when Barcelona played Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa.”
Dodd also opened up on the possibility of Kenyan clubs or select sides touring Spain and playing friendlies against local sides as was the case when a KPL All-Star team played Seville 'B' and Cordoba CF in Spain last year.
Kenya Premier League(KPL) 's logistics officer Frank Okoth described the missed opportunity as a 'shame', highlighting the challenges his team currently face in staging matches in Kenyan stadiums.
He lamented about the shortage of quality pitches in the country. “We are short of venues for league matches as Meru (Kinoru) stadium has been closed for renovations forever. I am informed Nyayo (stadium) will only be opened for Jamuhuri Day celebrations and then closed again," he noted.
At the same time Dodd wants La Liga to be the second most popular football league in the country after KPL. He shared a blueprint outlining the Spanish top league’s foray into the region that includes an existing partnership with KPL for production of local matches, plans to open an academy in East Africa and seminars to tackle match-fixing.