You don’t have to be a football expert to foretell that the planned reconstruction of a modern sports complex at Nakivubo is doomed. I was recently approached by a member of Nakivubo Stadium Board [I wonder whether it is still active after the demolition of the old stadium almost three years ago] who appealed to me to agitate for the quick reconstruction of the sports facility. After showing me fancy architectural designs, he told me how the delay is causing him sleepless nights and argued that when the work is finished, Nakivubo will be the best sports complex in East Africa and will be able to host international football matches on top of having state-of-the-art facilities for boxing, netball. As I listened to his arguments, I couldn’t help but wonder whether he believes what he was telling me. All I could see was a daydreamer with little information about sports management and zero knowledge about engineering. I still wonder if the stadium authorities consulted Fufa/Caf/Fifa before commencing the demolition to create shopping arcades because no sane sports enthusiast would have recommended such a dodgy arrangement. Anyone who has attended football matches in London or Berlin will attest how folks there meticulously planned their stadiums in crowded places. Right from access to security, stadiums there are given top priority ahead of any other infrastructure nearby. Sadly, the reverse is true in the case of Nakivubo and the longer it takes, the more it becomes practically impossible to recreate the famous Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium. As things stand, I would even propose to have Ham Investments take over the whole facility and instead offer an alternative piece of land on the outskirts of Kampala for the construction of a modern sports complex, which will fall within the norms of a Stadium. Truth is, even if all goes to plan and Nakivubo Stadium arena is constructed; it would still not be a viable venture. In fact, due to the congestion in the area, it would be a disaster in waiting. Firstly, the proposed 30,000-seater stadium would be a security risk to be put right in the middle of busiest part of Kampala. Spare a second and think about a stampede breaking out…dozens, if not hundreds, can lose lives because everything around is crammed. Just last weekend, a fan died during a scuffle to enter the stadium before Zimbabwe’s match against Congo in Harare. The mere surrounding of the place makes it almost impossible to handle the drainage challenges and fire-related emergencies and on that background alone, Nakivubo would be unfit to host any international game.
Do I need to mention the parking headache?
Just a few years ago, Caf fined Villa $2,000 when the team bus of opponents; Al-Hilal was delayed in traffic before making its way to the stadium. And in this era of terrorism, where many high-rise buildings are directly overlooking Nakivubo, it would be foolhardy to even plan a 30,000-seater there. You only have to look at how our neighbours in Kenya carefully planned for Kasarani stadium; whereas it is in the middle of Nairobi, it is some distance away from any activity. All in all, even if Nakivubo was to be done to the standards set, it would not be economically viable in terms of maintenance and generating income simple because few serious persons can risk moving to the centre of chaos in the name sport.
Case for relocation
Nakivubo board should be turned into an Authority which can attract investors independently. In civilised countries, it is not uncommon to shift iconic landmarks as long as the legacy remains. In the case of Nakivubo, it would be fine if the stadium is shifted elsewhere but authorities leave a remembrance monument at the original site for the World War II veterans after whom it was named. I believe there are a number of viable locations within a 30km radius from Kampala where government, with the help of a stable Fufa in a joint venture, can build a modern sports complex. Any amount leased out at the current location should be enough to purchase not less than 10 acres of land that can accommodate all sports amenities and start up capital to push the project to 40% works. I’m sure banks would be lining up to fund such a venture while government would gladly buy into this with some private sector players, who would buy shares through a public private partnership. These are ventures Fufa still in slumber should be considering to improve our game instead of engaging in sloppy projects without investment returns, the FIFA and CAF grants can be channeled to such JV. That’s my food for thought.
The author is Nyamityobora FC President