Malawi’s foreign-based athletes have lamented the kind of life they are living away from home in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, saying it is stressful, strange and boring.
Athletes, far from home, are enduring tough times in a world in lockdown being devoured by something that came from out of the blue, some kind of deadly flu, so contagious it has made a mockery of borders, plunging the globe into a state of disorder.
This comes after most countries worldwide suspended sporting activities and imposed strict lockdown to prevent the spread of the pandemic, which has so far claimed over 75 000 lives and registered over 1.3 million cases globally.
Setting the tone was revered South Africa-based boxer Isaac ‘Golden Boy’ Chilemba, who said: “It’s an awful experience… It is like you are under house arrest. You virtually do the same things.”
Asked how he is passing time, the former IBO super middleweight world champion said: “I train at home, I have got a punching bag and a few equipment to keep myself in shape. I also study and train some of my boxing students online. At times I am glued to the TV and flip through newspapers to keep abreast with current affairs. I also chat with my son through video calls.”
Flames estranged captain Limbikani Mzava, who is based in Johannesburg said he is being forced to follow an unfamiliar routine as he spends most of his time indoors.
“It’s strange a feeling. This pandemic is something else. The boredom, the stress and all that, but then I guess it’s for our own good and there is very little we can do other than stay at home,” he said.
Mzava said he is undergoing individual training programmes drafted by their team coaches and physio.
On his part, Gerald Phiri Jnr said: “There is nothing much to do. I sleep, watch TV do some ballwork and listen to music.”
Battle-hardened midfielder Robert Ng’ambi was quoted by SuperSport.com as having said: “It has been hectic and frustrating at the same time because we are not used to staying home as footballers.
“I miss playing football, but I know it is imperative for me to stay at home. Health comes first and we have to find a way to cope with the current situation and I hope everything goes back to normal.”
As for the country’s highest-rated chess player Fide Master (FM) Joseph Mwale, who is also a chess tutor in South Africa, it is tough to make ends meet in the Rainbow Nation “during these trying times”.
“Coronavirus has made my life tough here as there are no coaching schools or private children to teach. Tournaments are also not available,” the former national chess champion said.
In spite of that, the chess gladiator said he is trying to be innovative to stay afloat financially as he has introduced online chess coaching via Skype and a number clients from South Africa and Malawi have joined.
The South Africa-based athletes should even brace for more tough times ahead following President Cyril Ramaphosa announcement of a two-week extension of the current nationwide lockdown—which was due to end on April 16—until at least April 30.
UK-based Malawi Queens’ goalkeeper Laureen Ngwira, who plays for English top-flight netball league champions Manchester Thunder, said: “The situation is very critical as everybody is living in fear. People are stuck in their homes and netball action stopped even before the lockdown was imposed. Life is really boring and I miss netball games and friends.”
Her team-mate Joyce Mvula said despite the challenges, they try their best to get rid of stress and keep fit by walking to the nearest park everyday for work-outs.
“Sometimes I do the exercises in my bedroom due to the unpredictable weather here,” Mvula said.
However, Queens’ Australia-based shooter Mwawi Kumwenda and UK-based defender Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda yesterday said although their lives have been distabilised by the effects of the pandemic, they find solace in doing exercises with the gym equipment available at their respective homes.
Kumwenda, who plays for Australian netball giants Melbourne Vixens, said: “It is hard to survive in foreign land under the current situation. However, I feel at home with my current Australian family, which has everything I can use to train and get entertained everyday during this lockdown. I just love training.”
Severn Stars’ defender Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda said it is distressful to go through the traumatising period in the foreign land considering that this is her first year on her career as a professional netball player abroad.
“However, life is relatively good here as I have support from the family I am staying with. For now, I am able to keep fit at home using a treadmill, dumbbells and stairs. I am also able to interact with team-mates and friends online through video conferencing,” she said.
A UK psychologist Steven Sylvester was quoted by The Mirror as having said that athletes could be hit particularly hard by the lockdown.
“They are used to routine, dressing-room banter, training and games. The current crisis could leave them isolated and lonely.
“For a footballer, their very identity is being threatened,” said Sylvester, who helps elite players and has worked with Sheffield United and AFC Wimbledon.
He said it is vital for athletes talk to somebody as they deal with the impact of isolation.