It feels like solitary jail, says Kenyan basketball star Okal

Friday, April 3rd, 2020 00:00 |
Ariel Okal poses in his US Setif jersey in Algiers recently. Photo/COURTESY

Nairobi, Thursday

Kenya national basketball team power forward Ariel Okal has told BBC Sport Africa that being caught up by the coronavirus pandemic in a foreign country “feels like being in a solitary jail’’.

The Kenyan international had only arrived in Algeria late in January after joining top league side US Setif.

But having only just started with the team, the league - and indeed the country - went into lockdown. Okal was unable to return to Kenya, so was, and remains, trapped in a country he did not know.

Setif is among the regions of Algeria where the government has imposed an 0700 to 1900 curfew with limited movements during the day and gatherings of more than two people banned.

“I live alone and it gets really lonely here,” Okal told BBC Sport Africa.

“The internet is the my only companion here - it’s my everything. When I moved in here I was welcomed with cake by my neighbours; now I do not even see them.

“I am stuck in the house 24/7 and that can be depressing. My club arranges for my supplies to be delivered but I really miss eating out.’’

Okal had strong individual performances in his first games - he bagged 18 points in his debut match, a 69-50 defeat to TRA Draria - but Algeria’s Youth and Sports minister suspended all sport in the country from 16 March, when Okal had only played four times.

With Okal on an initial six-month contract, he fears he might have already played his last game for the team. “It’s scary to think I might have played my last game at the beginning of my last match,” he said.

“I hope that the club and myself will reach an amicable solution. I still have unfinished business here.”

He added he has not had any discussions with his club about his contract, but that he had not been asked to take a pay cut. “There is still hope that maybe there is a little chance that play might resume before July, but I think the situation in Algeria is getting worse by the day,” he said. - BBC

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