Football Football

Bubbly Kakamega opens arms for more Stars matches

The newly refurbished Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega hosted the opening ceremony for the 2017 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

KAKAMEGA, Kenya, Dec 4- The bubbly, small Western Kenya town of Kakamega opened its gates for its biggest football match in the recent past on Sunday afternoon when Harambee Stars played Rwanda’s Amavubi in the opening match of the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup.

Bukhungu Stadium, match venue for the highly anticipated clash was hosting its first high profile football match in close to three years after being shut down for renovations and its plum status not only wowed visitors but gave locals hope that more high profile matches will land at the stadium.

“I am very pleased today that we can come here to watch Harambee Stars. I hope that this is only the first of many. Some of us can’t afford to come to Nairobi every time Kenya plays and it is good if more matches can be considered for Kakamega,” one of the fans attending the match told Capital Sports.

Fans enjoy proceedings during the opening ceremony for the 2017 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

His sentiments were echoed by former Kenyan internationals Anthony Okumu and Fred Serenge who are also part of the workmanship putting up the tournament in Kakamega.

“This is a sign that devolution can work especially in Sports. We now have a very good stadium which I believe when fully completed can host a big international match, even a qualifier. It is good for the people of Kakamega,” Okumu said.

Serenge who was on the ground ensuring all facilities and protocol ran in with precision was also pleased not only with Harambee Stars coming to town but the development of the stadium as well.

“The people of Kakamega had missed football. You could see it in their faces today that they were happy. We want to see more matches and this is a challenge to other counties to build up facilities,” Serenge, a former Kakamega Homeboyz head coach said.

Harambee Stars players warm up before their 2017 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup opening match against rwanda in Kakamega on December 3, 2017. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

The stadium was shut down in 2013 to allow for renovations to take place and the facility has had a major facelift especially with an ultra-modern VIP stand which was part of the first phase of renovation.

There is also a modern office block complete with facilities while the perimeter of the stadium is now well defined with ample parking space.

The second phase of the rehabilitation will major on the construction of ‘Russia’ stands. Currently, there is only one stand on the terrace areas, but according to the plan, an all-round facility will be constructed in phase two.

Thousands of fans turned out in their droves on Sunday to watch the Harambee Stars and they are expected to trickle in in the entirety of the Group B matches which kick off on Monday.

The opening ceremony was on Sunday attended by Governor Wycliffe Oparanya as well as former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, flanked by Football Kenya Federation and CECAFA officials.

Guests of honor led by Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and former Premier Raila Odinga during the 2017 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup opening ceremony in Kakamega on December 3, 2017. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

In a separate interview, FKF boss Nick Mwendwa has hinted that more matches will be considered for upcountry especially with the fan-base that has been realized.

“It was great to see the people of Kakamega turn out in such large numbers and that is the 12th man we have always yearned for. We are bringing football to the people and this is the change that we promised for local football,” Mwendwa told Capital Sport.

He added; “We now urge the people of Machakos and Kisumu to come out to not only support Kenya but all the teams as well. We are looking at ways in which we can have more Harambee Stars matches coming in to the grassroots.”