Kenya captain Victor Wanyama and goalkeeper Arnold Origi battled it out in a Fifa 21 video game in a bid to persuade football fans to remain indoors and adhere to measures to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Measures reintroduced last week by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta means that fans were unable to attend the Harambee Stars’ 1-1 draw with Comoros in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Wednesday.
The games between Finland-based Origi and Montreal Impact’s Wanyama were relayed on the national team’s Facebook page.
Wanyama, who had only just arrived in the country a day after helping his side book a slot in the Major League Soccer’s (MLS) play-offs, won the two-legged fixture 3-2.
“I’m very happy to have defeated Origi. He had good players and I tried to contain his wingers Salah and Mane, and play them offside,” the former Tottenham midfielder said.
“Health is important, say safe, stay at home, tune into the TV and watch the game from home.”
Fans were also thrilled to see the return of the veteran shot-stopper Origi, who has just returned to Harambee Stars for the first time in five years, after regaining his Kenyan citizenship which he had automatically lost when he acquired Norwegian passport.
“It’s a difficult time, stay patient, stay strong and we shall overcome,” the 36-year-old urged fans, as he promised that the team will do their best to preserve the pride of the nation.
Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa explained that the virtual match was arranged to encourage Kenyans to learn to enjoy themselves indoors as a way to counter the surge in Covid-19 cases.
“Everything has gone online. These guys are always online when not on the pitch,” he said.
“We thought we should inspire our people by showing them we are moving with the tide and they could, especially during the Covid pandemic watch these guys play online.
The coronavirus pandemic has also had a impact on the pitch for Kenya with Michael Olunga, who requested to be left out of the team due to the ongoing situation in Japan where he plays for top-flight Kashiwa Reysol.
On 27 September Kenya had recorded 38,000 positive cases but after the president eased restrictions to allow bars and clubs to operate as well as pushing the night curfew to 11.00pm a further 19,000 cases were confirmed in just 38 days.
The night curfew has now been brought back to 10.00pm start and the ban on public gatherings extended to January.
In total, the east African nation has recorded 64,500 Covid-19 positive cases and 1150 deaths since March.