Kenyan football is bracing itself for one of its most embarrassing moments when African football chiefs make their final decision regarding Kenya’s ability to host the 2018 Africa Nations Championship.
An inspection visit that had previously been slated to start on Monday has been postponed to September 7 for reasons not immediately explained, but the air is thick with reports that the Confederation of African Football (Caf) has asked Morocco and South Africa stand by as possible replacements for Kenya.
Sports Kenya Director General Saima Ondimu said on Monday that construction work has begun in all the five venues earmarked to host the competition, although independent checks by Nation Sport ascertained that work at the said venues remains either untouched or in the very initial stages of construction.
“There will be an update by the Cabinet Secretary (Hassan Wario) on Wednesday where we shall tell you where we are with preparations. Construction work has begun already,” she said on Monday, although she could not confirm whether or not the tender evaluation process has been completed.
Caf had confirmed August 21 as the date for yet another inspection visit whose purpose will be “to assess progress following the June 2017 mission”.
The sports ministry continues to give the assurance that “things are moving at a good pace” even though they appear to be stuck at the tender-evaluation process two months after the tender adverts were put out.
Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa however told Nation Sport that the evaluation process is “90 per cent complete,” and that construction work across the venues will begin before the end of this week.
“The tenders have been evaluated, although some minor ones like lighting are yet to be awarded. Sports Kenya had a meeting with all contractors yesterday and I can assure you that by Thursday construction will have begun in all the five stadia,” he said.
Next month’s tour is believed to be the final visit by the Caf inspectors and should they find imperceptible progress, Kenya could lose its bid to host the tournament to Morocco who have declared interest in the hosting rights.
Should the tournament be redirected to another country, Kenya will automatically be disqualified from the competition, and this could be followed by a lengthy ban and/or a hefty fine.
Already, the qualification process of the tournament has been completed, with 14 nations having qualified so far.
Congo, Libya, Morocco, Cameroon, Nigeria, Zambia, Uganda, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Namibia have all qualified for the tournament that is scheduled to take place between January 11 and February 2.
The announcement will be a welcome relief to the region’s football enthusiasts.