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EXCLUSIVE: Government cancels Arsenal’s visit to Kenya

English Premier League giants Arsenal FC will not be visiting Kenya anytime soon.

This follows a decision by the Kenyan government to cancel the Magic Cup football tournament that was tentatively set for Nairobi in June.

The development was confirmed to Nairobi News by Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario.

“It (this competition) is a very good idea that combines both the sports and tourism aspects. Staging it is however a very expensive task, and then the timing at the moment isn’t the best. ” Wario said.

The Magic Cup football tournament was formally launched by the Ministry of Sports in 2013, then under the reign of Minister Ababu Namwamba.

TOP EUROPEAN CLUBS

The competition’s organisers – the then Sports Stadia Management Board (now referred to as Sports Kenya) alongside a UK based consultancy Open side sports, at the time outlined plans to have to top European clubs play a build up match at the Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani.

The two teams that were identified as likely participants in the tournament were EPL club Arsenal and Bundesliga side Borrussia Dortmund.

“Football Kenya Federation and Open Side Sports have teamed up to promote football in the country and the government is in full support of the initiative. We expect over sixty thousand individuals to attend and this will consequently encourage local and international investors.” Jonathan Soi, a government official at the time said.

Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger. PHOTO | AFP
Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger. PHOTO | AFP

MILLIONS USED

Despite records in our possession indicating tens of millions of tax payers money having thus far been channeled towards this “project” alongside stable commitment from corporate bodies, the competition, which has since been postponed on two different occasions, is now in danger of not taking place.

Among Government officials who attended the launch are then Sports Permanent Secretary James Waweru, Tourism Permanent Secretary Ruth Shollei, Nairobi Senator Mike “Sonko” Mbuvi and SSMB CEO Gabriel Komora.

The cancellation of the tournament comes in the wake of a similar botched visit by Italian club Inter Milan last year, a project that was reportedly also funded by the government.