Harambee Stars will play 2026 World Cup qualifiers abroad after Nyayo and Kasarani fail CAF evaluation


FOOTBALL: Harambee Stars will play 2026 World Cup qualifiers abroad after Nyayo and Kasarani fail CAF evaluation

Festus Chuma 10:00 - 31.08.2023

Kenya's national football team faces overseas challenges after CAF bars two stadiums, impacting their 2026 World Cup journey.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has delivered a severe blow to Harambee Stars by excluding Moi International Sports Centre in Kasarani and Nyayo National Stadium from the list of pre-approved stadiums for the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

This exclusion does not come as a surprise, as CAF had previously banned both Kasarani and Nyayo stadiums from hosting matches due to their failure to meet the required standards in 2021.

During that time, CAF Development Director Raul Chepindo wrote a letter, which was also sent to FKF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Barry Otieno. In the letter, CAF indicated that the decision to ban Kasarani stemmed from a report provided by its inspection team.

"Referring to the inspection visit conducted by CAF at Kasarani as part of the stadium's assessment for qualification for the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers. Based on the inspection report, we regret to inform you that the stadium did not meet the minimum CAF Stadium requirements set, and as a result, it will not be approved for the qualifying matches," the letter stated.

Despite the efforts to upgrade both stadiums, along with several others across the country, the venues still fell short of CAF's stringent criteria.

Harambee Stars face a challenging path to the 2026 World Cup qualifiers as they have been drawn into Group F alongside Burundi, Gambia, Ivory Coast, and Seychelles.

With their home stadiums now off-limits, Kenya will be forced to seek alternate venues abroad for their qualifying matches.

The impact of this decision resonates deeply as Kenya finds itself navigating a critical phase of the qualification process. 

The inability to host matches on home turf not only disrupts the Harambe Stars  preparation but also deprives Kenyan football enthusiasts of the opportunity to rally behind their national heroes on home soil.

The situation is further complicated by the new qualification format unveiled by the CAF Executive Committee in May 2023. 

New format introduces nine groups, each comprising six teams where  winners of these groups will secure direct berths to the 2026 FIFA World Cup. 

Adding to the complexity, the increase in the number of CAF teams directly qualifying from five to nine means that the four best group runners-up will engage in play-offs to determine the CAF representative for the inter-confederation play-offs.

Nyayo Stadium in 2021  was allowed to host two games, but its reprieve was short-lived as it ultimately failed to meet the rigorous standards set by the football governing body.

Football Kenya Federation now faces a race against time to identify suitable international venues to host their matches. 

The first-round matches of the African qualifiers will kick off in November at various venues across the continent.