Kenya: Coronavirus - Tough Times for Kenyan Sportsmen

Second hand clothes on display at a stall in Toi Market in Nairobi.

Nairobi — Michael Olunga uploaded a photo of him chilling out, complete with a face mask after the Japanese Leagues became among the first to be halted due to the spread of the new coronavirus.

Kenyan basketball player Ariel Okall has not left his Algiers apartment for the last six days and has admitted this has to be one of the toughest times being a sportsperson.

It is not post-season and the reality that you cannot go out to the pitch, court or track is slowly downing on athletes amid the worldwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The Kenya Morans power forward just recently moved to Algeria to join top tier side USS but his new adventure has been slowed down by the spread of the virus, with Algeria being one of the worst hit countries in Africa.

"It is a very tough time. We suspended training last week and I have been in the house for the last six days. The furthest I have gone is my balcony. But we have to keep safe and play our role to ensure the virus does not spread," Okal told Capital Sports.

Harambee Stars skipper Victor Wanyama is also another foreign based Kenyan star who has just completed a transfer to a new address. The midfielder has recently joined Major League Soccer (MLS) side Montreal Impact from Tottenham Hotspur.

But, after playing just one game, the league was shut down due to the virus and players have been asked to stay at home in a bid to shelter them from contacting the virus and promoting social distancing.

"We really pray that everything goes back to normal. It is a tough time not only for us as players but the whole world. At the moment, I am just staying indoors and trying to work out on small exercises to remain fit," Wanyama said.

Another is Harambee Starlets forward Esse Akida who is plying her trade with Turkish giants Besiktas.

"No football and suddenly things are strange. Hopefully the situation is contained. Luckily for me, I live in the team premises so at least I can train on my own. There is no group training at the moment," Akida told Capital Sport from her base in Turkey.

On the interwebs, clips have been awash of players doing their best to remain active during this period.

From Liverpool's James Milner dividing ratios of tea bags at his house to Diogo Dalot and Bruno Fernandes playing penalties at their backyard and Paulo Dybala trying his hand at cooking, sports people have been trying to 'remain sane'.

Back at home, Kenyan Premier League coaches have said they have tried to advise their players on what to do during this period to remain fit for the remaining games of the season.

Kenyan football has been halted until the first week of April as the country monitors the situation.

"We broke camp after the Ushuru game and tentatively, we plan to go back on Monday, but that will be dependent on how the situation will be this week. It is a unique situation but we also have to play our role to ensure the virus does not spread," AFC Leopards head coach Anthony Kimani said.

"I have encouraged the players to work on their fitness by doing morning runs, doing cardio with their body weight at home. For sure, the momentum will be killed and we will have a lot to do when we resume, but we have to play our roles as good citizens and stay away," he added.

The same sentiments are shared by Posta Rangers' Sammy Omollo, who like his AFC counterpart says they target to get back to training on Monday if the situation is better.

"They can remain fit by doing a bit of personal work out on the estate pitches and at home as well. I am really optimistic we will deal with the situation soon," Omollo noted.

It has been the same too in athletics with coach Bernard Ouma of the Rongai Athletics Camp that has world beaters Elijah Manangoi and Timothy Cheruiyot being temporarily closed down.

"I have asked them to go to their respective homes for the next two weeks as we monitor the situation. All this is in a bid to minimize social interactions. There will be no group trainings and everyone is training on his own," Ouma stated.

"But we can't do much from the village because the facilities are not as good as here. So no gym work for them and no track sessions. Just long runs and cardio at home," he added.

He also says; "It comes at a time when we had picked up momentum well with the focus being the Olympics, but now this is beyond our control. Health comes first and we have to play our role in ensuring the virus does not spread."

With the International Olympic Committee (IOC) yet to make a decision on the Tokyo 2020 Games, Ouma hopes the virus can be contained in the next few weeks to enable head back to training.

But, it will prove to be harder for team sports compared to individual sports. The national volleyball and rugby teams will see their programs disrupted heavily in the build up to the Olympics.

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