Despite ban on sport to tame virus, football continues in estates unabated

Friday, July 10th, 2020 00:00 |
Players of Kibera Gaza FC say a short prayer before an Inter-Base match at the Woodley Grounds on Wednesday. Photo/PD/RODGERS NDEGWA

Rodgers Ndegwa and Charles Thuku

Three months ago, the government banned all social gatherings, including sporting activities in an effort to contain the Covid-19 pandemic after the first case was reported in the country on March 13.

However, this directive was thrown out of the window by several disciplines especially football with some grounds in Nairobi hosting activities oblivious of the fact that the virus has taken a new dimension and is increasing by the day.

It is a matter of hear-no-evil, see-no-evil with facilities like Kibera’s Woodley and Alaqsa, Camp Toyoyo in Jericho and the adjacent Uhuru Estate grounds holding unsanctioned events almost daily.

Grounds in Umoja, Embakasi, Githurai, Kangemi, Hamza and Kawangware are also a buzz with contact sports.

A spot check by People Daily revealed the sad state of affairs even as the law enforcers increasingly keep a blind eye on the blatant breach of rules despite some of the neighbourhoods reporting high cases virus infections daily.

This happens, despite the fact that FKF in line with the government directives banned all football activities and cancelled all local leagues.

At Woodley, at least six teams were actively taking part in a tournament with the participants saying it was one way of warding off boredom and keeping them in shape before the leagues resumes after the directive from the authorities.

According to a coach of one of the teams and who sought anonymity for fear of reprisal, the competitions are played from dusk to dawn with players mingling in total disregard to social distancing that is a prerequisite to avoid contracting the virus. 

“We are aware of the risks involved in this kind of gatherings but we have no options as football brings people together and especially during the current catastrophe.

Most of the players here had gainful employment before they were laid off following the virus and there was no better way of keeping themselves busy by playing football the risks notwithstanding,” offers the tactician.

He intonates, “As a coach I am using this opportunity to try and get my players in tip-top shape and I’m optimistic that they will be in the right frame physically and mentally before the resumption of the sub county leagues.’’

But it is not all rosy for the players as they frequently engage security officers in running battles before regrouping to continue to do what they had all along been doing before the onset of the virus.

“We are usually engaged in constant running battles with the authority and we disappear in the slums since there is no perimeter fence or gate in the ground.

We make our way back after some few hours but not as defiance but simply because there literally nothing to do,” quipped a player who is attached to a team taking part in the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Nairobi West Regional league.

Though the advisory committee on resumption of Sports chaired by the  Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Hassan Noor Hassan has not indicated when action shall resume, players have gone an extra mile to engage in work outs either in pitches or gymnasiums.

According to another survey, others are usually seen jogging in the wee hours of mornings although this is considered a bit safer considering the distance between them.

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