NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 21- The Confederation of African Football (CAF) inspection team will jet into the country on September 7 and not August 28 as earlier planned to assess the progress of preparations towards next year’s African Nations Championship (CHAN).
The CAF delegation had announced during their last visit in June that they would be coming back for a make-or-break final inspection tour at the end of August, but Local Organising Committee (LOC) Deputy Chief Executive Officer Herbart Mwachiro says the dates have changed.
There have been fears that Kenya would be stripped of the hosting rights for the biennial championship specially made up for local based players with the speed of progress in rehabilitating the proposed venues taking a snail’s pace.
“Hosting rights for CHAN remain with Kenya until CAF officially say otherwise. There has been a widespread belief that we will not host but I am confident that we can be ready in time,” Mwachiro told Capital Sport.
He says work on the venues has taken higher gear after the General Election and Nyayo National Stadium has already been closed down for renovations with Kenyan Premier League matches moved to Kasarani.
“The contractor at Nyayo has already started work and all the other venues have work going on from a while back. The difference now is that things are moving on a bit faster especially after the elections. By the time CAF IS coming in September, everything will be on course,” Mwachiro further commented.
The current fears evoke memories of 1996 when Kenya was set to host the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) but pulled out with the tourney heading to South Africa.
Already, word is that CAF has signalled South Africa and Morocco as potential replacements if Kenya fails.
Football Kenya Federation boss Nick Mwendwa speaking to Capital Sport in a past interview said he was confident that Kenya would host the championship but called for better involvement from the government.
But Mwachiro has said the government has already disbursed funds and it is now a task of racing against time.
“Government has released the money and now it is up to us to work round the clock. It is a challenge but we can overcome,” he noted.
Only the Kasarani Stadium ticked most of the right boxes during the previous inspection tour with the Kinoru Stadium in Meru also getting thumbs up. Kipchoge Keino in Eldoret, Kenyatta in Machakos and Nyayo in Nairobi left question marks.
The CAF team was impressed with the transport and hotel infrastructure as well as some of the training grounds but the biggest headache remained the stadia.
Four stadia are required to host the championship. Each must have at least four changing rooms, a well mapped out media tribune, television quality floodlights, standby generators, separate referees, anti-doping and event management offices as well as perfect internet connectivity.
Kenya has a lot of work to convince the continental body that it will indeed be ready in January with most of the facilities lacking the prerequisite requirements.
During the June visit, the CAF team held meetings with government officials led by Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario, all who gave assurances that the government is committed to host the championship.
Kenya successfully hosted the IAAF World Under-18 Championship and FKF and its organising committee is now under pressure to ensure that football does not let the country down.
Qualification for the championship is set to wind down on Tuesday.
Fourteen teams have already qualified with only one slot remaining. It will be determined on Tuesday when Senegal travels away to Guinea with a 3-1 lead from the first leg.
The qualification campaign has already claimed big casualties including defending champions DR Congo, South Africa and Ghana.