Every time the country goes through an election cycle, Tharaka Nithi County excites the nation with jokes of how the tiny devolved unit has the ability to tilt the outcome of the entire process.
“It’s never over until Tharaka Nithi votes come in,” Kenyans often say.
However, the county is hardly mentioned when it comes to sports and sports facilities.
But despite this, local youth are actively engaged in sports.
Tharaka Nithi boasts of 68 registered men’s football clubs, 45 in Maara and 67 in Chuka.
There are 26 active women’s football teams in the county.
Notable clubs are Panga FC, Live Wire and Kibugua Junior that recently won the Chuka Igambang’ombe League, Kathwana youngsters, Maara Young Tigers and Kairuni football clubs, which participate in the county league.
In spite of the talent that abounds in Tharaka Nithi, the majority of youth do not realise their full potential since they have to scramble for the limited spaces in public school fields.
But all is not lost. Local residents are excited as the first ever stadium takes shape at Kirubia market.
Situated about 2km from Chuka town, off the Meru-Embu highway, the Sh384 million Kirubia Stadium is attracting sports tourists from various regions who are keen to replicate the facility in their home counties.
Kirubia is among seven stadiums that were earmarked for upgrade by the national government. Construction began in 2016 and was set to be completed in 2017.
Though the completion is behind schedule, Governor Muthomi Njuki says the wait has been worthwhile.
The land on which the stadium stands was donated by the Mugwe community.
Once complete, the stadium will have an international standard tartan track, a football pitch, changing rooms and a sitting capacity of 4,500.
So far, the football pitch is done. Setting up of an irrigation system, terraces and changing rooms are nearly complete.
Tharaka Nithi has never hosted any national sports event, but Governor Njuki is optimistic that after Kirubia Stadium is completed, it will become an epicentre of sports.
The government is also building three major stadiums at Kairuni in Maara, Nyangumi Stadium at Marimanti in Tharaka and Kathwana in Chuka Igambang’ombe constituencies so as to develop sports at the grassroots.
Sports director Stephen Kamau says Nyangumi is currently at 75 per cent complete and the grass on the field is green — a stark contrast to the bare arid surroundings.
Like the other three constituency stadiums, it will have a football pitch, a rugby pitch, an athletics track, a volleyball court and a basketball court.
“We are starting from scratch but we are moving in the right direction,” he said.
Saturday: Kidundu Stadium in Vihiga County