The Mombasa County Government Wednesday moved in to calm irate football fans who were up in arms over fears the famous Tononoka grounds - currently the only remaining public playing ground on the island - had been turned into a full-time market.
This was after bulldozers started levelling and compressing the surface at the grounds which are now teeming with trucks after they were turned into a temporary wholesale market a month ago.
Asha Abdi, the acting Chief Officer Trade, Tourism and Investment at the Mombasa County Government, Wednesday clarified that the facility was being upgraded to make it conducive for the market goers after the current rains which have been pounding the region made it inhabitable.
“It is true bulldozers and excavators are on the ground to spread murram and compress the grounds so that the lorries accessing the facility to deliver food do not get stuck in the mud. But this is a very temporary measure.
“Immediately after we are done with the coronavirus, we will scrap off that murram and allow football to continue at the grounds as has been the case,” she said.
According to her, the facility had become a health hazard owing to the heavy rains and had to be fixed to avert another disaster.
But Ali Mwatsahu, speaking for the hundreds of football players in Mombasa, would hear none of that and wants the county government to start planting grass on the ground during this rainy season to make it playable.
“Tononoka is the only remaining playing ground in Mombasa after Railways Club Shimanzi and Mbaraki Police grounds were all grabbed. Where do they expect our youth to play if all the grounds will be put into other use?” posed Mwatsahu.
But Abdi insisted converting the facility into a market was very a temporary measure to decongest Kongowea Market during this pandemic and asked the sportspersons to stop reading too much into the move.
Coast football fans have been wondering when renovation work at the Mombasa Municipal Stadium will be completed after it was closed eight years ago.
Lack of a venue has denied Kenyan Premier League club Bandari FC an opportunity to host international matches in Mombasa after the only other venue, Kenya Ports Authority’s Mbaraki Sports Club, was not cleared by the Confederation of African Football to host international matches, both in 2016 and last year when Bandari qualified for continental football.