Kenyan star Okall: Locked down and homesick in Algeria


Kenyan star Okall: Locked down and homesick in Algeria
Kenya men's national team Morans forward Ariel Okall. (PHOTO/Courtesy)
@BernardNdong

The Kenya men’s basketball team player Ariel Okall was just settling in to his new team Union Sportive Setifienne in Algeria before the coronavirus pandemic struck and he found himself in the midst of a countrywide lockdown.

The Morans power forward became a prisoner in his house and has not left for close to a month, receiving his supplies at his doorstep from his club in Setif, south east of the Algerian capital Algiers.

Okall who signed a professional basketball deal with Union Sportive Setifienne has been forced to alter his sleeping routine, going to bed at 4am and waking up at midday and staying awake for the rest of the day. He has only played four times for the team since he penned a deal.

“My club participates in the top tier league, the Algerian basketball division one league, and they have been in the finals for the Algerian cup for three years. For a young club that is a big achievement,” the 29-year-old told Citizen TV.

The first case of coronavirus was reported in Algeria towards the end of February, triggering the start of an all familiar trend that has been witnessed around the globe.

It started with a trickle with the Algerian government announcing at least three cases every day before a blow-up that pushed the numbers 1 on February 25 to over 1800 by April 11. Over 200 deaths have been recorded during that period, forcing the government was forced to take drastic measures.

Health Crisis

“You are not allowed to move around and everyone stays in their houses. They don’t go moving around the city since the government has banned people from going to work, school and using public transportation,” Okall said.

Movement is only allowed for people to go and shop with supermarkets being opened between 8am and noon. Okall has opted to remain indoors the entire time just to be extra cautious.

“I don’t leave my house, I haven’t left in a month, the team management makes sure they deliver all my supplies in my house, I don’t need to live outside,” he said.

Physical inactivity is also a disease that Okall is trying not to catch. His club still has more than 20 games to go and it’s still unclear whether the league will resume after the health crisis is over or will be postponed indefinitely.

“I work out in the house; I do aerobics, I do yoga, I work with my body weight, to ensure I maintain my fitness before we resume if we are going to resume at all.”

The rest of his free time is preoccupied with communicating with his family back in Kenya.

“I speak to my family a lot since I have access to Wi-Fi connection. I call home all the time, speaking to my friends back at home and my teammates in the national team. I get in touch with everyone to maintain my sanity, that’s the only way you can maintain your sanity when you are here.

The Kenyan Embassy in Algiers is constantly in contact with Okall and the rest of the Kenyans in Algeria who are home sick but can’t travel back because international travel has been halted.

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Story By Bernard Ndong
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