The renaming of Narok Stadium to William Ole Ntimama Stadium has been welcomed by Narok residents terming it as the best way to honour late veteran Masaai politician who died on September 1, 2016.
The renaming was unveiled by Sports Cabinet Secretary (CS), Amb. Amina Mohamed in presence of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga during the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) forum in Narok on Saturday.
The move to rename the stadium was made in October 2019 during the burial of former Transport and Licensing Board Chairman, Hassan Ole Kamwaro when Ntimama’s daughter, Lydia Ntimama requested the government to consider honouring his father.
“We are grateful the government has considered renaming the stadium to commemorate the fallen hero. This is an honour to our leader who was so passionate on guarding the Maa community,” said Booster Kisio, a youth leader.
Kisio said the stadium will motivate the Maa youth to exercise their talent on the ground as many are talented in sports but have never had an opportunity to showcase their talent.
“We appreciate the government’s efforts to expand the stadium to a multi-facility arena. We ask them to add other indoor games like swimming which will promote talent of our people,” added Kisio.
It should be remembered that the late Ntimama was a staunch supporter of the then ruling party KANU, prior to the adoption of the multiparty politics in Kenya in 1990. He was vocal against multi-party politics like many diehard Kanu supporters at the time.
However, after the advent of multi-party, he decamped from KANU and joined the Democratic Party (DP), then headed by retired President Mwai Kibaki.
Ole Ntimama was later reelected to represent Narok North Constituency through an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket during the 2007 general elections.
He announced his retirement from politics on September 14, 2013 when he lost the seat after elections to the current Narok North Member of Parliament, Moitalel Ole Kenta, who by then was vying on a TNA ticket.
However, the outspoken Maa leader on August 12, 2016 announced that he had joined the Jubilee Party headed by President Uhuru Kenyatta where he led a delegation of Maa leaders to State House shortly before his death.
The stadium was first reconstructed in the year 2014 at a cost of Sh. 300 Million and later upgraded during the 2019 National Madaraka day celebration that was held in the county.
During the Madaraka celebrations, the stadium was upgraded to accommodate 4, 000 Very Important Persons (VIPs) dais and 20, 000 people.
Five additional entrances were also constructed around the stadium in addition to two ablution blocks.
Speaking on Saturday before unveiling the new name, Amb. Amina said the intention of her department is to build up the stadium into International Football Federation (FIFA) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) standards.
“William Ole Ntimama Stadium will be upgraded to national standards by the government in honour of the former minister. I will personally champion for many games to be held in this stadium to generate more funds and motivate youth in Narok,” said Amb. Mohamed.
She revealed that she had consulted between her ministry, county government of Narok and Maa community leaders before taking the bold move.
“The Maa community and leaders wanted to honor their fallen hero who fought for their rights when he served as a councilor, Member of Parliament and Government Minister,” Amb Mohamed said.
At the same time, former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga said Ntimama earned a lot of respect from his Maa community and other Kenyans because he took a stand in protecting his people.
“I also respect Ntimama because he stood for the rights of the Maasai. He loved his people. Giving this stadium his name is a great honor,” Raila said
Local traders and business persons too embraced the move to honor the fallen hero, saying it will boost their business as they are optimistic the name will attract many sporting teams and events to be held in the stadium.
“Late Ole Ntimama was a renowned politician worldwide. I am sure many foreigners will love to visit the stadium and games held at the stadium in his honour. This will boost our business,” said David Githaka who owns a retail shop in the town.
He recalled how Ntimama was a great leader who united all the tribes that live in Narok town when he was the area Member of Parliament.
“Though he protected the rights of the Maasai Community, he loved all tribes and assured us of our security when doing business,” added Githaka.
John Munteta, a boda boda rider asked many young people who feel they have athletic talent to visit the field in a bid to do practice.
“This is a big opportunity for us young people. Now that we have a field that is named after our father Ole Ntimama, we should honour him by nurturing our athletic talents in the field,” Munteta said.
The upgrading of William Ole Ntimama Stadium is in line with the promise President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy, William Ruto made before their re-election in the year 2017 to build five modern stadia across the country.
By Ann Salaton/Lemayian Kefa