Mayambela grateful for return to football

SA Players Abroad

Mihlali Mayambela is set to make a long-awaited return to action later this month when loan club Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv resume their domestic campaign against Hapoel Kfar Saba in the Israeli Premier League.

Football has been suspended in Israel since 1 March due to the coronavirus outbreak, but will return on the weekend of 30-31 May after national lockdown restrictions in the country were eased.

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A number of limits are still in place, however, with players still being confined to their homes, but allowance has been made for clubs across the league to resume full training – without social distancing restrictions – ahead of the season's resumption.

"We're staying at home now, like we can't go out and walk and stuff. If we do that, it would be a big, big problem for the team and for the league as well because you might get suspended," Mayambela tells KickOff.com

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"[But] we started training, I think two or three weeks ago, and we've been training normally. Our first league game will be played at the end of the month, on the 31st, so that's the case, that's what it is.

"We arrive at training wearing masks and we avoid shaking hands – but we're training normally now. If you check, Israel is one of the safest [countries] so we're training normal and we're waiting to see if there will be no more problems before the league starts again."

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With the number of new infections in Israel declining, football has been able to return sooner than in some of the neighbouring UEFA-affiliated nations, and clubs across the country have already embarked on a "mid-season pre-season" to get players back to full fitness.

"There will be friendlies, there is one tomorrow [Tuesday], and I think there will be two or three friendlies before the season kicks off again in 20 days' time," Mayambela explains.

"I feel great because I've been working at home, even though it was not easy, but I've been trying my best and since we've now started full training, the body is getting back into shape.

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"The only thing I think I'm missing now is that match fitness, you know. I was injured before the league stopped so I'm now I'm trying to get to my fullest, fullest fitness.

"I feel good [about returning] because I'm a football player and I miss football, so I feel grateful that we're going to be able to get back on the pitch again to do what we love."

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While football is set to resume in Israel later this month, Mayambela's parent club Farense saw their season end last week after the 2019/20 LigaPro campaign in Portugal was brought to a premature conclusion.

At the time of the decision, Farense ranked second in the league table and, accordingly, earned automatic promotion to the top flight for next season, but Mayambela is still waiting to see what the future holds for him.

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"It [the move to Bnei Yehuda] was a loan with an option to buy, but now, obviously, I cannot comment too much on that because there was this outbreak that changed everything," the 23-year-old shares.

"You know, everything stopped now and the last day [for the Israeli side] to pay the transfer is 20 May, but I haven't heard anything from the clubs yet, and it could be that FIFA might move the date to another month, so I'm still waiting.

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"But I have a contract with the Portuguese club [Farense] and at home there I have a good relationship with the coach, and the players and the staff, so it's good for me both ways. If I stay here or if I go back, I would love just to play football at the highest level."

Mayambela joined the Israeli club at the end of January and made five appearances, including a match-winning performance against FC Ashdod, before the season was temporarily suspended.

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