Ruaraka Grounds, home to Tusker FC, faces a dire state, but a promised renovation could rescue its storied football history.
Ruaraka Grounds, nestled in the heart of Kenya's footballing history, has witnessed both triumphs and tribulations over the years.
A place where dreams have been woven and shattered, where victories have been celebrated and tears have been shed.
This once-hallowed turf, home to the illustrious Tusker FC, has been grappling with a relentless adversary - its own deteriorating state.
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As the 2023/2024 Football Kenya Federation Premier League continues for Tusker, who use it for 'low-risk matches,' Ruaraka Grounds finds itself in a perilous condition, prompting stakeholders to question when, or indeed if, standards will ever improve.
The disheartening state of Ruaraka Grounds has not escaped the vigilant eyes of its patrons.
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In June 2023, Sam Nzau, the CEO of Tusker FC, sounded the alarm. He revealed that the grounds were slated for a long-overdue transformation at the end of the season. The vision was clear - to not only accommodate more fans but also to restore the pitch's playability to a standard befitting its rich history.
"We have worked with our groundsmen and checked and consulted with different stakeholders to find a solution, but in the long run, the goal is to have a standard quality football pitch.
"We are working tirelessly and our sponsor Tusker is working hard to give our players the best when it comes to infrastructure," said Nzau.
However, the journey towards redemption is no easy task, and it will demand more than mere words.
"The hope is that between the end of this season and the start of the next season, we are going to see works coming up on our pitch in Ruaraka.
"We will work on our surface and ensure that stands are worked on as well. We might not accommodate everyone like Nyayo Stadium or Kasarani would, but we have to start from somewhere," he noted.
As the current FKF Premier League progresses, the dire condition of Ruaraka Grounds has become all too apparent.
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Seven matches into the season, FC Talanta clashed with Posta Rangers, and the grim reality of the pitch was hard to ignore. The coaches refrained from blaming the pitch after Talanta's 3-1 victory, but it was evident that the playing surface was far from ideal.Goalposts without grass, bumpy patches, and an uneven terrain left both teams struggling to control the ball.
Before that game, Muhoroni Youth, after a 1-0 defeat to Tusker FC on the 23rd of September, had their coach, Charles Odera, decrying the state of the pitch.
"The game could not flow because the pitch was bumpy, and our style of football is to play a game that flows, so it was impossible for us to express ourselves the way we wanted against Tusker," he lamented.
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These were echoes of frustration from the very heart of the beautiful game, where the essence of football was threatened by an unfit battleground.
While promised renovations have given rise to new stands, memories of injuries sustained on the pitch linger. The ground has a history marred by accidents and grievances.
In 2018, Ruaraka Stadium was banned from hosting league matches, with the committee recommending a comprehensive facelift before lifting the ban. Tusker FC, who had claimed the grounds as their home, was forced to seek alternative venues.
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Rehabilitation efforts were initiated in 2019 and 2020, but these actions appear to have provided only temporary respite. The relentless decline of Ruaraka Grounds has not been stemmed, and the criticisms from sports personalities and coaches have grown louder.
The question that lingers is whether the promised overhaul in June 2023 will finally usher in a new era for this footballing institution.
Ruaraka Grounds, despite its recent tribulations, has a storied history.
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Founded in 1969, Tusker FC, then known as Kenya Breweries, has graced its fields with moments of glory that include 12 league titles. The club's reach extends beyond Kenya, having reached the finals of the CAF Cup Winners' Cup in 1994.
These accolades only underscore the significance of Ruaraka Grounds, making its present dilapidation all the more distressing.
It is a place where legends were made, a breeding ground for the future stars of Kenyan football. For far too long, the very soul of this footballing cathedral has been battered and bruised.
It has witnessed its fair share of triumphs and heartaches, but it stands at a crossroads - will it continue to be a symbol of neglect, or will it rise like a phoenix from the ashes?
As the sun sets on each matchday, Ruaraka Grounds yearns for a new beginning. It dreams of hosting matches where players glide effortlessly across its pristine surface, where fans cheer with unbridled enthusiasm, and where it reclaims its former glory.
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The journey to redemption is underway, and the commitment from the CEO of Tusker FC is an encouraging sign.
However, action is paramount, and only when the promised renovations become a reality will Ruaraka Grounds truly reclaim its status as a cherished footballing haven.