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How foreign-based Kenyan stars are coping amid virus chaos

Wednesday March 25 2020
By JEFF KINYANJUI

The coronavirus pandemic is threatening to bring the world to a temporary halt. So far it has claimed over 18,000 people while there are over 420,000 confirmed cases globally.

Juventus star Paulo Dybala, Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta, Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi and former AC Milan star Paolo Maldini are some of the famous sports personalities that have contracted the deadly virus that originated from Wuhan Province in China.

Kenya has a number of footballers plying their trade abroad and with all the leagues halted, they have found innovative ways to stay fit. Harambee Stars Strength and Conditioning coach Mike Igendia, who is also currently under self-isolation, says it is very crucial for all athletes to ensure they stay fit during this period.

“I had travelled to Johannesburg for a Caf workshop and even though I am perfectly healthy and have no signs of sickness, I am, just like everyone else who had travelled abroad, self-isolating for two weeks. It is absolutely necessary to do that even for my own good,” he told Nation Sport.

“It is very key for professional athletes to be innovative in their workouts during this period. Of course, there are those that have good programs from their respective clubs while others have enough space in their homes to work out normally but the majority live in small spaces. However, that doesn’t mean they cannot work out. Lunges and burpees are just some of the exercises they can do daily to stay fit.”

“The biggest challenge is that we don’t know how long it will be before normal sporting action resumes so it is really difficult to plan a training program. Periodization is key in such plans but I advise players to just ensure they work out on their own, no excuses,” he added.

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Nation Sport looks at how Kenyans stars are keeping fit:

Johanna Omolo, midfielder at Cercle Brugge in Belgium

Belgium has slightly over 4200 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 122 deaths from the epidemic. The First Division League has been suspended and the whole Cercle Brugge team has been placed on a 14-day self-isolation after one of the staff tested positive for the virus.

“The feeling here is pretty tense. Nothing has ever happened that disrupted the country and daily lives like this before and everything is on a lockdown. We are not supposed to go out. I am worried about the rising cases and my first thought was to move the kids back home but I can’t travel back to Kenya as all the players and staff members of my club have been put under quarantine since there was a member of the medical staff who tested positive for COVID -19. The only thing you can do is stay indoors and follow the hygiene guidelines,” Johanna told Nation Sport.

“We have individual training from the physical coach to do at home. As I said we are under 14 days of quarantine,” he added.

The midfielder has advised Kenyans to take all the necessary precautions during this period.

“We should take this seriously because of the rate at which the virus is spreading, you don’t know who could have it because symptoms might not be showing. The only way to try to lessen the spread and help doctors and nurses is to stay at home, social distances of at least 1.5m, avoid crowded places, wash your hands regularly using soap and avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth,” he added.

Eric “Marcelo” Ouma(defender at AIK in Sweden)

Two thousand and three hundred cases of Covid-19 and forty deaths had been confirmed in Sweden by Wednesday. The Swedish Allsvenskan 2020-21 season is yet to kick-off as earlier scheduled due to the pandemic.

“The feeling is not normal and most activities have been stopped. It is worrying when you see the numbers keep rising and people die. With this, you never know when things will get back to normal but we hope it will be soon,” Ouma said.

“We have some training programs that were sent to us by the team which we use every day. You can train from home or outside where there are no people. My advice to Kenyans is to follow all directives and no one should be left behind because one person can infect a thousand or even millions of people,” he added.

Joseph Okumu (defender at IF Elfsborg in Sweden)

“It’s a sad feeling and the situation is devastating. I am worried because of the rate at which the virus is spreading is alarming,” Okumu, a former Chemelil Sugar defender said.

“We have specific programs and training from home as there are no team sessions at the moment. I urge my fellow Kenyans to follow the precautions because it is the only way we can reduce the spread, every county is doing the same. Hopefully, everything will be back to normal soon.”

Michael Olunga (striker at Kashiwa Reysol in Japan)

By Wednesday, 1193 cases had been confirmed in Japan while 43 people had succumbed to the dreaded virus. The J1 League remains suspended but Olunga and his teammates are still training.

“It’s a tough moment not only for football fraternity but also for all sectors across the world. In Japan, they have tried to contain the situation but the conditions are still not suitable for the J1 League to resume at the moment. The J league managers are trying their best to ensure we resume soon and we are hoping for the best,” he said.

“We are training weekdays as a team and have off days during the weekend. As players, we also try to keep fit and train from home. I would advise people to be more cautious and try to follow strictly the different ways that help in minimising this global pandemic. With Japan recording over a thousand cases, the public reaction has been really positive and most have followed the government orders and it has seen the recoveries of a lot of patients who suffered from COVID -19. I would like Kenyans to try and emulate the same,” he added.

Victor Wanyama, (midfielder at Impact Montreal)

The Harambee Stars captain moved to Canada to join Major League Soccer (MLS) side Impact Montreal from Tottenham Hotspur recently. Canada has slightly over 2700 confirmed cases of Covid-19 while 26 people have succumbed to the virus. The USA, where most MLS sides are based, has been hit hard with 54,935 confirmed cases and 784 deaths as of Wednesday.

Impact Montreal suspended training at their centre but shipped stationary bikes to every player, including Wanyama, to train at home. The Kenyan international has used his official social media accounts to spread awareness during this period, urging his followers to take the necessary precautionary measures to combat the spread of the virus.

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