Nairobi News


Sakaja can anchor legacy on City Stadium revamp

Once an epitome of Kenya’s football culture, Nairobi’s City Stadium, the country’s oldest modern football stadium, now lies in shambles.

For eons now, what was once upon a time a bedrock of Kenya’s football culture, the sports facility – which is fully owned and managed by the County Government of Nairobi- is today not only a pale shadow of its former glory, but a run down venue left to remind those old enough to remember the good old days, of a glorious football era.

Some of the celebrated retired footballers who made the stadium a fortress in their hey days include Allan Thigo, Peter Dawo, Charles Otieno “Engine”, John Okello Zangi, John Bobby Ogolla, Sammy Onyango “Jogoo”, Paul Odwour “Cobra”, Austin Oduor who is considered Kenya’s most successful captain following his exploits with Gor Mahia, Abbas Khamis Magongo, and Peter Otieno ‘Bassanga.

The dalliance that is Gor Mahia with Kenya’s football legion was brewed at Nairobi’s City Stadium.

Nicknamed Tok K’Omwanda which means behind Omwanda’s place (Omwanda was a famed Gor Mahia fan who lived next to the stadium) by Gor fans of yesteryears, City Stadium bears a rich history that belies its disrepair today; but not anymore.

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja has rolled up his sleeves to bell the cat that has escaped the City’s two past county Governors Dr. Evans Kidero and Mike Sonko.

In a move not much surprising to those who have interacted closely with the youthful county boss, Sakaja has moved to bring back glory to the old Good City Stadium with a revamp of the stadium scheduled to begin after the groundbreaking ceremony was done at the venue.

The county boss led in the groundbreaking at the county’s Woodly grounds in the Kibra constituency before heading to the Joe Kadenge stadium, formerly referred to as City Stadium.

Under the planned reconstruction, the county government of Nairobi will among others have a FIFA standard playing pitch; a running track, and 10,000 capacity roofed siting stands making it a model stadium able to host international matches.

In the past, several other county governors have made attempts at constructing what they christened international stadiums but ended up constructing shambolic structures which cannot host any football match worth it’s salt.

The county government of Nairobi will now have in its fold, the Dandora stadium which is almost complete and awaiting its official opening, the woodly grounds along Joseph Kang’ethe road in Kibra, and the landmark City Stadium allowing teams in Nairobi to access three quality facilities for their league matches.

For starters, City Stadium had been the home of Gor Mahia, Kenya’s most successful and popular football club, for a long time.

The 10,000 seater stadium attracted more than its fair share of fans on any given Gor Mahia Match day such that the footbridge just outside the stadium along Jogoo road was at some point taken to be part of the stands in the stadium.

It was a football arena like no other in the country, probably, in the region, before it hit its sell-by date, got dilapidated, and was neglected by its owners, the former City Council of Nairobi.

Under the devolved system of governance, Nairobi’s pioneer Governor Dr. Evans Kidero rode on a promise to reconstruct the stadium as did Nairobi’s second Governor Mike Sonko but whoa! That was just that, promises. The stadium was fitted with an artificial turf with funds from FIFA but there was never a will to maintain the turf, now an eyesore.

The current generation of players who have had a chance to use the facility may not be aware that it used to host the Gossage Cup, currently the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup, in the 60s when Kenya and Uganda dominated the championships.

As a football stakeholder in Kenya I am pleased with this development that will offer footballers a chance to expose their talents.

Sakaja, while on the campaign trail ahead of the 2022 elections, promised to make City Stadium now renamed Joe Kadenge Stadium, and many of us believed he might be the one with the magic to do it, and by the look of things; it seems that the long dream could finally be a reality.

I am born and bred in Makongeni, the same ward hosting the City Stadium. As I grew up, people around my locality adored the stadium. We would go to watch matches there every weekend and the environment was awesome.

The area is well known to produce prolific footballers such that growing up in the area; it was common knowledge that you would most likely be a great footballer, a boxer, or a thug. Life was difficult and was only livened by weekend football at City Stadium. We passed school exams but our parents were not able to take us to colleges, however, football and boxing opened up the world for a majority of us.

Unlike the past two governors, Sakaja is the first Governor who grew up in the city and could therefore be the only one who well understands the nostalgic feeling that comes with Tok K’Omwanda Gor Mahia’s home ground for years.

The decision to reconstruct City Stadium could not have come at a better time than this when the country looks at an eminent closure of both Kasarani and Nyayo stadiums for renovations as Kenya looks to host the 2027 African Cup of Nations.

When the renovations are complete, football teams in Nairobi will now have a place to call home with the Governor having steered the construction of the new Dandora Stadium and now the reconstruction of City Stadium. It is an eye opener for another governor across the republic to ensure that they take seriously the development of sports infrastructure since it is now common knowledge that sports is a multi-billion industry globally and Africa has the youngest population in the world so why not create facilities for the youth to explore their sporting talents to not only eke a living for themselves, but as well, market the country at the world stage.

Thank you Governor Johnson Sakaja for this noble initiative of bringing back the memories of City Stadium.

Kenn Okaka is a communications Consultant

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