Mathare United players and staff yesterday finally took Covid-19 tests ahead of their long awaited kick-off to their Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Premier League campaign where they face former champions Sofapaka on Saturday in Wundanyi.
The Slum Boys have not engaged in competitive action since March last when last year when the Kenyan Premier League (KPL), was initially suspended as a measure to curb the spread of Covid-19 after the country reported its first case of the disease.
Regular Covid-19 testing of all players and staff is one of the conditions set by Kenya’s ministries of health and sports.
Meanwhile, a mind boggling run of five matches within 18 days is threatening to leave an untested Mathare with a heavy load and fatigue according to head coach Salim Ali.
Mathare who alongside Zoo FC have yet to play any league match this season, due to their disagreement with the federation on endorsement of the broadcast sponsor, now begin action this weekend.
Between this Saturday and Wednesday, January 27, the slum boys have tough fixtures with four being against title contenders record league champions Gor Mahia, Sofapaka, Bandari and 2010 league winners Ulinzi Stars.
After their trip to Wundanyi this weekend, they will be against K’Ogalo at Kasarani Stadium five days later.
The fixture glut poses a worry for Salim who, however, has to contend with a lot of traveling to honour their pending matches.
“We are disadvantaged in a sense because our last competitive match was in March last year.
Other teams have gotten match fitness so the start will be a bit hard on us.
“We will, however, have to deal with it despite the congestion which is obviously a worry for any coach.
Of course the element of fatigue and injuries will crop in but we will strive to manage.
I believe the players have prepared well and are ready for the challenge,” Salim told People Sport yesterday at the Goan Institute.
He added: “It is unrealistic to have a target since we have not seen any of the players in action.
I will be studying them right from game one and seeing what areas to improve on. This will be a long season but what is important is that we go in ready.”
Club Captain Chrispine Oduor on his part was positive about the team preparations and was eager to go play.
“We are eager to play because we have been out for a long time. The important thing I think is to start well and then hopefully keep up the tempo.
I know it’s a lot of games clogged in a short span but we cannot do much. We have a good squad and a balanced mix of players and indeed for most here, we have all gone through a system and structure.
We can go all the way and hunt for the title, it is possible if we believe and work. For now focus is on the Sofapaka match that we intend to do well in,” he said.