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COVID-19 lockdown puts African Sevens football stars in a spot in Kerala

Around 250 players from Africa who ply their trade with the Sevens football clubs are stranded in various northern districts due to the lockdown.

Published: 20th April 2020 01:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th April 2020 01:27 AM   |  A+A-

Al Madeena club’s foreign players with team manager Ashraf Ali, fourth left.

Al Madeena club’s foreign players with team manager Ashraf Ali, fourth left

Express News Service

MALAPPURAM: They have been happy to be in Kerala, winning matches for their clubs and the bread for their families. But around 250 players from Africa who ply their trade with the Sevens football clubs are stranded in various northern districts due to the lockdown. With the visas of many of those players expiring by the end of next month, they are keeping their fingers crossed.

“All the tournaments of this season have been called off. Our presence is not required here anymore. Our families are missing us and they want us to be with them during this crisis. I plead with the government to help us get back to our countries,” said Nigerian Mansari, 30, of Al Madeena Cherpulassery Football Club. The visas of Mansari and five others will expire this month-end, according to Al Madeena manager Ashraf Ali. African players are star attractions at the Sevens and if there was no lockdown, they would have been entertaining thousands at this point of time. Now there is not much talk about this bunch of players, who the local football enthusiasts fondly call Sudanis.

“Each African player makes Rs 3,000 per match on average and their lives are entirely dependent on the earnings from the Sevens season. Of the 60 tournaments on the calendar, 33 were cancelled due to the lockdown which put the players in crisis. But they are not complaining. All they want is a helping hand from the government to go back to their home countries. If authorities extend the lockdown, their visas will expire and they will have to wait much longer,” said Ali. The Sevens Football Association has already raised the issue with the government.

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