An air of expectation filled the air in August, 2010, when little-known Kihumbuini Stadium in Kangemi, Nairobi County, was among the facilities selected by the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) to host top-tier league matches.
The Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, Kenya’s premier sports venue, had been closed for renovation for a year and Nyayo National Stadium was unavailable, having also been closed for two months for 2020 African Senior Athletics Championships.
A small dais was built inside Kihumbuini Stadium and a perimeter fence partly erected.
The playing surface was levelled and grass planted on it by Nairobi Provincial Administration at the time.
With basic facilities in place, the pitch hosted matches in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) and other lower-leagues for a while.
CONVERTED INTO A URINAL
But a decade later, the stadium has been reduced to a dump site serving the adjacent Kangemi Market.
A spot-check by Nation Sport shows that traders have encroached on the parking area of the stadium, while idle youth, some high on drugs, doze away in broad daylight on what used to be the playing surface but which is now overgrown by grass and weeds.
The perimeter wall is barely standing, part of it has been converted into a urinal by passers-by.
Just what happened to Kihumbuini Stadium?
In mid-2018, Nairobi County Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko announced an ambitious plan to convert five facilities in the county to modern stadiums.
Kihumbuini Stadium was part of Sonko’s mega plan that started with the construction of Dandora Stadium. In October 2018, Sonko presided over the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of a new “state-of-the art” Kihumbuini Stadium, again rekindling hope among football stakeholders in Kangemi and its environs.
Tractors and workers moved to the site immediately after and dug up the playing surface but did nothing more. Eight months later, the contractor carted away his equipment and left the site, leaving the pitch worse than he found it.
Arthunus “Obango” Obala, a veteran football administrator and former coach of Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Division One League team Kangemi AllStars, has said history has repeated itself concerning the stadium, with politicians making empty promises as far as the refurbishment of the sports facility is concerned.
“Former President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi made a stop-over here in 1988 and addressed thousands of Kangemi residents on this very pitch.
He promised to ensure a modern stadium is built in months.
“That never happened. During the campaigns for 2013 General Elections, Deputy President William Samoei Ruto was here and promised the same.
“Fred Gumo, who served as the Westlands Member of Parliament for many years, promised to refurbish this facility very many times but he never did. Even the current MP Timothy Wanyonyi seems to have forgotten that this pitch is in his area of jurisdiction,” Obala told Nation Sport.
“When Sonko moved in and started actual work in the stadium, we were very happy and thought that a messiah had finally remembered the youth of Kangemi but it has turned out to be just another political gimmick.
“The contractor left a huge heap of soil and the pitch, which became unplayable. We have over 20 teams from this region playing in various leagues which ideally should be training and staging their matches here, and they have really suffered as they are forced to hire pitches for their games even as far as Kiambu County,” Obala said.
“Simon Mugo who is a local football leader here recently used his resources to cart away the heap of soil and installed goalposts on the pitch, just to ensure the teams can train but this pitch is still desperately in need of a facelift.
“We have tried to reach out to the governor and the other county sports officer without success. I want to remind them that they have to fulfil their promise to the youth in Kangemi,” he added.
Kangemi AllStars Team Manager Fredrick Zangi blames the team, which once featured in the KPL on the poor state of the stadium.
The team was demoted to Kenya’s third-tier football league, the FKF Division One league, from the National Super League in 2018.
“We could neither train nor host matches at our home ground due to its poor state, and that cost us dearly. With no money to pay for an alternate training ground, we barely trained. We would often meet on match days and that was the beginning of our decline,” he explains.
“We are pleading with the county government to at least level the playing ground, finish the perimeter wall and install an artificial turf in the stadium. That would be a good start and would really change the lives of many youths in this area who now risk turning to drug abuse and crime,” he added.
WILL SOON BEGIN WORKING
Hashim Kamau, chairman of Nairobi County Sports Board, however says the county has not abandoned Kihumbuini Stadium project, adding that the county will soon begin working on the facility afresh.
“The contractor building Dandora Stadium is the same that is scheduled to work on Kihumbuini Stadium.
“He will move to Kihumbuini Stadium as soon as Dandora is complete. What remains at Dandora is just laying of artificial turf which is on site but we have some small issues with the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority.
“Once we sort that out, then we will finish Dandora and embark on the Kihumbuini Stadium Project, hopefully mid-June,” he told Nation Sport.
Is this yet another unfulfilled promise?
NAIROBI METROPOLITAN SERVICES
Youth in Kangemi are hoping that the stadium will be refurbished soon to enable them do what they love most — playing football.
“For years, footballers in Kangemi have been treating avoidable injuries due to playing and training in this poorly maintained pitch.
“We should be hustling to buy football boots and equipment as we strive for a better future, not spending the little we get in hospitals. Are we children of a lesser god?” Collins Ambani, a Kangemi AllStars defender, posits.
With seven military officers — including Director-General Maj Gen Mohammed Badi — tasked with enhancing service delivery in Nairobi through the newly-created Nairobi Metropolitan Services, footballers and other sportspeople in the city hope the new dispensation will also have sports high up their agenda.