As action starts original Chan venues far from ready
For the next three weeks, ardent lovers of African football will shift their attention to Morocco, where the 5th edition of the African Nations Championship kicks off Saturday evening.
In the first of the 34 matches, the hosts – considered favourites – will tackle Mauritania at the Stade Mohammed V in Casablanca, starting at 8:30pm.
The other matches will be competed in other cities across Morocco namely Agadir, Marrakesh and Tangier.
The 16 teams competing include Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Zambia and Cameroon. Eastern Africa is represented by Uganda, Rwanda and Sudan.
This, however, is not the original script, because Kenya were suppose to host this tournament.
That was confirmed on February 4, 2014 when Confederation of African Football (Caf) awarded the country the hosting rights.
Buoyed by an exciting pre-election pledge by President Uhuru Kenyatta to the effect that his government will build five state of the art stadiums and also ensure the country hosts at least two international sports events during his first term in office, Football Kenya Federation identified Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani and Nyayo stadiums in Nairobi, Kipchoge Keino in Eldoret Kinoru and in Meru and Kenyatta in Machakos as possible venues.
But Caf would eventually take away the hosting rights on September 24 after a number of trips by its inspectors revealed none of the venues was anywhere near ready to host the matches.
This week, Nation Sport visited the five stadiums which has been earmarked as venues and confirmed that none of the ongoing renovations works were anywhere near completion.
At Kasarani, the venue which would have hosted the opening ceremony of the games, the pitch has been dug out with plans underway to replace it.
The grass-planting project is expected to last six weeks.
Nyayo too, is far from complete. Last week Sports PS Kirimi Kaberia visited the facility and told journalists that he expected the venue to be complete by April.
“I have just asked the contractor to complete all the works and hand me back the keys by March,” he said.
Earlier, the PS blamed delayed payments by his Ministry, cancelled tenders, the prolonged politicking season and rains for delay in work.
Similarly, the works at Kinoru and Kipchoge stadiums are far from complete whilst the same has yet to even commence in Machakos.
Compare this situation to the one in Morocco which needed three months to adequately prepare for this tournament.
Comparatively, none of the stadiums hosting the games, namely Stade de Marrakech, Stade Ibn Batouta and Stade Adrar required any renovations to stage the matches.