I and colleagues in our football team at the Nation Media Group are still nursing sore muscles after last weekend’s tour of Mombasa where we played two friendlies against Coast Media FC and the County Government of Mombasa.
Given that our team is barely three weeks old, it was a bold decision to plunge into the deep end and conjure up a Mombasa tour to face better prepared and more cohesive sides who have been in the business for much longer.
Therefore, Saturday’s 3-3 draw we eked out against our fellow Coast scribes and Sunday’s narrow 2-3 loss, against the run of play, to the County Government of Mombasa under floodlights are results we would take any time.
Our resilience and aching muscles aside, the experience of playing at Kongowea’s “Uwanja wa Mbuzi” Stadium was quite memorable.
And it raised the question: What has taken so long for the national government to invest in sports facilities?
The 3,000-seater stadium in Kongowea will most certainly revolutionise football at the coast, given that the possibility of playing around the clock, in the intense heat and in cool conditions under the lights, will offer a huge number of talented players a much-needed platform to showcase their talent.
What’s more reassuring is the fact that the County Government of Mombasa, under Governor Ali Hassan Joho, have plans to put up more such facilities, with mini stadiums like that at Kongowea planned for each of Mombasa’s six sub-counties.
Also, the county is constructing seven-a-side football stadiums at each of its 30 wards with a major, 5,000-seater facility expected to be completed in five weeks’ time at Bomu. The county is also putting up a big stadium, complete with a synthetic running track in Likoni.
Speaking at a reception for the Nation FC players at the county government’s headquarters Monday, both Deputy Governor William Kingi and Sports executive Kevin Munywoki sounded quite upbeat on plans they have for the development of sports in Mombasa.
“We are also working on a Fifa-standard beach football stadium,” Munywoki said. “The idea we have is to take advantage of Mombasa as a popular destination for tourists to cash in on the attractions that sports tourism has to offer,” he added.
Indeed, these are long overdue thoughts that will both help raise the profile of the coast capital and offer talented youngsters an opportunity to earn a decent living from sport. High unemployment rates have driven youngsters into drug addiction with the coastal region worst hit.
Such focus on sports development by the County Government of Mombasa would, therefore, play a huge role in mitigating against substance abuse.
If all the other county governments went the Mombasa way, there would be less pressure on the national government to go the extra mile and deliver sports infrastructure so badly needed.
The more reason why Parliament and Senate should continue drumming up for a bigger budgetary allocation to the counties and, as at the same time, the county assemblies continue pushing for sports to get a decent slice of the budget in their respective counties.
Governor Joho’s lasting legacy will, most certainly, be the development of sports infrastructure in the county. Instead of wasting tax payers’ money on alleged “benchmarking” trips to Europe, Asia and Australia, Members of the County Assemblies ought to ride the SGR to Mombasa and sample Governor Joho’s sports programmes.
Meanwhile, we’d love to see Joho and his deputy Kingi in the line-up when Nation FC returns to Mombasa to celebrate the opening of the Bomu Stadium. We have unfinished business!