Ten months after Nation Sport highlighted a story of hope for the sports fraternity in Turkana County, nothing tangible has been done concerning the building of an ultra-modern 20,000-seater Lodwar Stadium.
Turkana County has a rich history in athletics. The 1988 800 metres Seoul Olympic Games gold medallist Paul Ereng, the 2010 World Cross Country Championships gold medallist Joseph Ebuya, and the 2010 Commonwealth Games marathon champion John Kelai are from Turkana County.
The 2010 World Junior 5,000m bronze medallist Alice Aprot, Irene Limika who finished 20th at the 2009 IAAF World Championships marathon in Berlin, road race veteran Elizabeth Ewoi and World Cross Country Championships runner Jane Ekimat are also some of the notable athletes from this region.
The stars aside, the United Nations refugee camp in Kakuma, which is 491 kilometres north of Eldoret, stands out as another seedbed of athletics bigwigs.
Some of the top athletes from Kakuma who participated in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games include Rose Nathike (800m), James Chienjiek Nyang (400m), Angelina Nadai Lohalith (1,500), Paulo Amotun Lokoro (1,500) and Yiech Pur Biel (800m).
In January this year, North Rift Athletics Kenya branch held its regional cross country championships in Lodwar for the first time in history. Some races were held early in the morning and others later in the evening due to the baking sun.
Athletics Kenya president Jack Tuwei urged the Turkana County Government to work on the stadium because the region proved that it could hold national events.
On your way to Kerio Ward, the unmanned stadium site sits on 50 acres at Ekaales Centre. Part of the metallic fence and bars have been stolen and anyone can walk in and out of the facility with ease.
This is the spot where the county government was to set up an ultra-modern stadium, which is yet to kick off.
A spot check by Nation Sport at the stadium site found initial earthwork had been done. The arena was meant to motivate the youth to embrace sports.
One can tell that excavation was done to level the sloppy and rugged ground of what is meant to be a football pitch, however, there are noticeable gullies. It is also evident that there was a plan to improve the drainage on the pitch in case of flash floods. But what was left behind are several abandoned culverts. There is also a heap of ballast that the contractor left.
Dr Jacob Lolelea, who was the Sports Chief Officer before being moved to Agriculture, had said that since the devolved unit announced initial plans to construct a stadium whose shape was to resemble Atubwa – an iconic Turkana food bowl for blood and milk, Sh50 million was committed to the project.
However, Turkana County Sports Executive Charles Lokioto accused the contractor of misusing money for the project.
“The construction process stalled and the county government blacklisted the contractor over a shoddy job,” Lokioto said.
He said that construction work was also partly hit after the devolved unit lost contact with a reliable Spanish architect, forcing them to go back to the drawing board.
This is after the lead county government architect David Mogikoyo died on June 7 last year in a road accident when his car rolled along the Kakuma-Lodwar road.
“As a county government we still have plans to ensure the area has a standard stadium that can be relied on for regional and national events. We have committed Sh20 million for a new architectural design,” the sports executive said.
CLING ON HOPE
He added that once they are through with the design works, they will use it to seek funds from partners to construct a dream stadium. That means that sportsmen and women are in for a long wait for a stadium.
Residents and the sports fraternity can only hang on to hope that Turkana County Governor Josephat Nanok’s administration will come through with the stadium project.
Stephen Echoto, a Lodwar town resident, said that his wish was and still is that the county will have modern sporting facilities to nurture the talent of the youth.
Echoto said that those whose talents can be identified, nurtured and promoted can easily generate income.
“Sports can also keep youth engaged instead of slipping into drug and alcohol abuse reduction. But it’s very unfortunate that with the remaining two years of the current county government’s term, the stadium project seems impossible to achieve,” he said.
Sportsmen and women in the county are only left with fields owned by institutions that only have goal posts.
The most reliable is Lodwar GK Prison grounds next to Lodwar Airstrip that is currently decorated by used vehicles tyres. The field without a single blade of grass and no clear plan for drainage is always completely submerged in floods whenever it rains.
When there is an important sporting activity and the Lodwar GK Prison is flooded, the venue is shifted to schools’ grounds such as Lodwar Mixed Primary School, Kawalase Primary School and KanamKemer Primary school.
“At the moment, we can only bank on partnership to boost sports infrastructure in the county to ensure that each of the seven sub-counties has a modernized stadium,” Lokioto said of a workable short- term plan.
He said that with shades, goal posts and introduction of other games like basketball in primary and secondary schools, more youth will be encouraged to venture into sports.
He said that they still have plans to rehabilitate the showground football pitch in Lodwar town.
He challenged existing football clubs’ management to have associations of players and officials to who can present their views and concerns to the Ministry of Sports as stakeholders as well as provide input on improving the general sports sector in the county.
Teams such as Kakuma United Football Club and Nawoitorong Rangers, that are currently the top teams from Turkana after participating in the Football Kenya Federation Division Two League Western Zone B, will have to endure a long wait to have a modern stadium as their home ground.
Some youth from the area like Adams Ewoton, 24, have been successful in exploiting their talents thanks to having an opportunity to nurture his talent in Nairobi where he grew up.
Ewoton played for Brumnddal (Norway 3rd Division Avdeling 1) on loan in 2017 from Talanta Football Club but an injury stalled his professional football journey.
He said that he is now coaching his village team, Kawalase FC, but however, singled out lack of proper sporting grounds, shoes and uniforms as some of the challenges that are killing young talents.