FKF explains why Kenya settled on Malawi over neighbouring nations for Harambee Stars matches

David 'Cheche' Ochieng (L) for Harambee Stars in a past matcg

FKF explains why Kenya settled on Malawi over neighbouring nations for Harambee Stars matches

Joel Omotto 07:40 - 18.05.2024

Football Kenya Federation has explained why Kenya chose Malawi over regional nations to host Harambee Stars’ upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Burundi and Ivory Coast.

Football Kenya Federation (FKF) has defended the decision to choose Malawi over neigbouring countries to host Harambee Stars’ two 2026 World Cup qualifiers in June.

A section of football stakeholders, among them ex-players Dennis Oliech and John ‘Bobby’ Ogolla, as well as fans have questioned why Kenya went ‘too far’ to host their home matches against Burundi and Ivory Coast, in light of the absence of a suitable venue in the country, instead of seeking an alternative nearby.

The feeling was that it would have been easy for Kenyan fans to attend the matches and push the players if the venue was in a neighbouring nation which will be challenging in Malawi but the federation says that was not possible at the time an alternative venue was being sought for a number of reasons.

“Tanzania were to play at home in the same week by the time we were looking for venues and Uganda also have two home matches so they could not give us a venue. We cannot play outside the FIFA week,” said FKF Communications Director Kenn Okaka.

“Going to Rwanda would not have been a good idea because Burundi is a neigbouring country and it is like giving them home advantage.

“Uganda’s did not have an approved stadium by then and we tried Egypt but we did not get a response then we went to Malawi who agreed.”

Going by the scheduled World Cup qualifiers in the region, Uganda are set to play two home matches against Botswana and Algeria on June 7 and 11 and will host both matches at the newly-refurbished Mandela National Stadium (Namboole).

However, Namboole was just approved one week ago to host international matches after being closed for nearly four years at a time when Uganda were forced to seek an alternative home elsewhere.

Tanzania, meanwhile, would perhaps have offered Kenya an opportunity to host their matches at Benjamin Mkapa Stadium given Taifa Stars do not have a competitive home match during the upcoming international window.

Taifa Stars were set to face Eritrea but the country pulled out of the World Cup qualifiers last November, meaning only five teams in Group E, Morocco, Zambia, Congo, Niger and Tanzania, are contesting the World Cup ticket.

Tanzania will play away to Zambia on June 11 after friendly matches on the road against Sudan and Indonesia.

Kenya is, however, still hoping that it can convince CAF to allow it host their matches at Nyayo Stadium.

Sports Principal Secretary Peter Tum, appearing before the National Assembly Committee on Sports on Thursday, announced that his Ministry had invited CAF's inspectorate team to conduct a re-inspection of Nyayo National Stadium.

"The fact that CAF's team has agreed to come again for an inspection after a request by the CS gives the country and football fans hope of watching Harambee Stars start their World Cup qualifier campaign on home soil,” said Tum.

While that appears difficult, given the tight timelines and the logistics that come with a change of venue, FKF still hopes that it can come to fruition to save Harambee Stars the hassle of playing away.

“We are hoping that that is what will happen but CAF asked us which is our alternative stadium and we gave them. If anything changes, we will communicate to CAF, they will come, do an inspection and if everything is okay, they will communicate with both teams,” added Okaka.

East African countries have grappled with stadia issues in recent years with Tanzania the only nation boasting a CAF and FIFA-approved stadium until the clearance of Namboole and the newly-renovated Amahoro Stadium in Rwanda.

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