NAIROBI, Kenya, May 6 – Harambee Stars goalkeeper Patrick Matasi is hoping that the airports will be re-opened soon to allow him fly back home and bond with his four-month old son, having only seen him for a few days after his birth last December.
With the Ethiopian Premier League cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, Matasi who turns out for Addis Ababa-based giants St. George is now keeping his ears on the news to know just when President Uhuru Kenyatta will re-open Kenyan airspace for international passenger flights.
“The good thing is that the club allows players to travel back home for the birth of their kids and I was home in December when he was born. It was great joy for me and the family. Now that the league has been called off, I really hope I could travel home to be with him and my family. I am only keeping my fingers crossed for it,” Matasi told Capital Sports from his base in Addis.
“I have only been seeing him through video calls back home but it is not the same as being with him there,” the shot-stopper noted.
The Ethiopian league was halted after the government declared a five-month state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be no league champions, relegation or promotion and Ethiopia will also not have a representative in next year’s CAF competitions.
Matasi says he supports the decision by the Ethiopian Federation, though he is a little bit sad that he cannot fulfil some of his targets for this season.
“It was the best decision for them to take because why rush to get football back on the pitch before we can deal with this virus, then later start regretting when it has spread beyond control. Playing football behind closed doors in Ethiopia is hard because the fans really love the game and they will always want to watch,”
“Better we stop the virus now and return to playing football when it’s safe than rushing back only to regret later. I am a bit sad though because I had some targets which I set out for myself at the beginning of the season,”
“Last season we couldn’t win the league and this time, we were really focused on that. I have won CECAFA, I have played at the Cup of Nations and this year, I really wanted to play in the CAF Champions League. But it is what it is and we now have to shift those plans to next season,” Matasi, whose St. George side was third in the standings, two points behind leaders Fassil Kenema said.
Even with the leagues cancelled, Matasi will keep himself busy training at home and spending time with some of his teammates who live nearby to ensure he keeps his mind busy.
“It has been a very difficult time for players because we no longer could do what we loved best. We had travelled out of town for a camp with the team and returned a few weeks ago when we hoped the season could resume,”
“As a player, it is very easy to find yourself depressed especially when you are far away from your family. I have tried my best to keep my mind engaged. I bought a few equipment to enable me train at home and thrice a week, I go out for long runs,”
“Now that the league has been ended, I will keep training but only reduce the intensity to probably three times a week. We don’t know the fate of the AFCON 2021 qualifiers so we just need to keep fit and ready,” the former AFC Leopards, Posta Rangers and Tusker FC shot stopper added.
Matasi has firmly integrated to his new life in Addis since moving from Tusker and though he admits he found it difficult to get accustomed to the traditional and popular Ethiopian dish Anjera, he says he still feels at home there.
“Food wise, I have definitely found a way. You know I am Luhya,” Matasi jokes.
“There is a Kenyan chef who cooks for guys at the embassy and he often delivers for me ugali flour, beans and maize so I can make githeri as well as other cereals. He also cooks chapati several times in a week and he avails them to me,” he says.
“Generally, life is a bit different from back home but I have made myself used to it and integrated very well with the different culture,” he adds.
As he waits on word from the Kenyan government over a possibility to fly back home, Matasi will continue keeping in touch with his family and four-month old baby boy via video links as he works hard to stay fit and keep safe at his Addis Ababa residence.