The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has affirmed it does not have an intention of taking away the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) hosting rights from Kenya.
With only one out of the five listed stadia having ticked most of the right boxes, there has been growing concern that Kenya might not be ready to host the biennial championship for home-based players.
However, Suketu Patel, the CAF first vice chair has made the assurance that the continental body is fully backing Kenya to be ready for the January event.
He said this on Friday afternoon after a meeting with Hassan Wario, the Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Football Kenya Federation officials and the Local Organizing Committee.
Patel was initially set to meet Vice President William Ruto but the meeting did not take place due to Ruto’s diary being packed.
“I want to say that we are not here as policemen. We have just come to make sure that everything is running well and guiding the organizing committee on what to do. I want to make this very clear that CAF does not have any other host in mind apart from Kenya. I want to clear that misconception,” Patel said in a packed conference room at the Sports Ministry Headquarters.
Despite the fact that CAF still backs Kenya to deliver a successful tournament, Patel has insisted that the government must keep its end of the bargain.This was on the promise of the current government to build five new stadia.
Not everything is ready
Wario disclosed that Sh2.7bn has been allocated for the tournament. “We have received assurances from the government they are supporting this process. As long as they ensure they deliver on their promise, it will be okay. Though not everything is ready, we have seen that the work has started,” the CAF second in command noted.
Wario has insisted the government will do everything within its power to ensure the tournament is a success.
“It can be done, it will be done. We only need to work together to deliver this. CAF has given us their assurance which is very important. As a ministry we will do our part. We also know that we have another important championship next year with the World Under-18 Athletics Championship, but we are also giving equal attention to CHAN,” the Sports CS noted.
The CAF inspection team started their work on Monday inspecting Kasarani and Nyayo stadia in Nairobi. They then inspected the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret, Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos and the Kinoru Stadium in Meru.
None of the upcountry facilities were impressive with concerns raised over changing rooms, stands, lighting and ICT infrastructure. Only Kasarani, built in 1987 for the All African Games was found suitable.
Herbert Mwachiro, the LOC Deputy CEO admitted there is much work to be done, but maintains they will be up to scratch.
“The good thing is that contractors are already in place and work is going on. We know what CAF requires and that will make it easier for us now to move ahead. We are committed to ensuring everything falls in place,” Mwachiro told Sports News Arena.
His words were echoed by FKF boss Nick Mwendwa who added; “We have to be honest, our stadia are not up to standard. But, we have the government assurance. We were in parliament on Tuesday and we were assured that the budget will be availed and we have the goodwill of both CAF and the government. We are looking at this post CHAN. These same stadia will be vital for our own leagues.”
Report on findings
The CAF technical inspection team is expected to give a report on their findings in 10 days. The report will be shared with the ministry and FKF from where they will work towards achieving the targets set by CAF.
Kenya hope to avoid a repeat of 1996 when the country was initially set to host the African Cup of Nations but later pulled out, CAF directing it to South Africa.
Of the five venues earmarked, only four will be selected. The selected stadia must have at least two training facilities with similar conditions to the main stadium four changing rooms each, a medical room, an anti doping room, a working media centre, referee’s room and event coordination room.
Also, the stadium must have good ICT infrastructure.
The CAF team also inspected a few hotels which have been earmarked for the tournament and were impressed by them.
They will return to the country in June to assess the progress and Patel speaking to Sports News Arena insisted that everything must be ready latest three months to the event which is September.
“We don’t have much time but we have also learnt that in Gabon, one of the stadia was constructed less than seven months to the competition. We know there is a workload but we will deliver,” FKF boss Mwendwa added.
Rwanda hosted the last CHAN, raising the standards so high and Patel has insisted Kenya must set even higher standards.