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Workers Cup runner-up returns to play final just days after father’s funeral

#WorkersWelfare #Qatar2022

Morris Wendo of Gulf Contracting Company (GCC) might have ended up on the losing side in Friday’s Workers Cup final. However, by coming on as an early substitute just days after the death of his father the 26-year-old Kenyan won the hearts of his team-mates and was compared by his team management to an all-time sporting legend, Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.

Wendo returned home on 13 April after his father Charles passed away following a stroke. He returned just four days before the final and told www.sc.qa he would have stayed back longer with his mother, four brothers and five sisters had it not been for the desire to feature in the final of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy-sponsored tournament.

“I wanted to come back and be with my team when I heard that they had won the semi-final,” he said. “This is such an important tournament for my organisation and myself. Winning would mean claiming silverware in the host country of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”

He continued: “I spoke to my family and my brothers said I should go and try to win the trophy as that was what my father would have wanted.”

GCC’s English coach Andy Clayton changed the formation during the first half, from 4-4-2 to an attacking 4-3-3 by bringing Wendo on. And, thereafter, thanks to his link-ups with offensive partners Eric Ojwang and Dennis Ndege, his side dominated possession and created a number of chances.

In the penalty shoot-out, Wendo’s shot hit the top of the upright and came down vertically but failed to cross the line. But regardless of the result, his team bosses were simply delighted to have him back among their ranks.

GCC team manager Sebastian Thomas told www.sc.qa that Wendo had called from Kenya stating his intention to come back for the final, and the team management provided him the return ticket. 

“We were thrilled that he was coming back so soon after laying his father to rest,” he said.

“That sort of commitment is hard to find and we were all hoping that he could win the final for his Dad. I was reminded of Tendulkar going back to Mumbai for his father’s funeral from England while playing the 1999 ICC World Cup and returning a few days later for a must-win group game.”

Coincidentally, Tendulkar had returned after his father’s funeral to feature in India’s group game against Wendo’s nation, Kenya. Although India won that game they crashed out of the tournament later in the group stage. However, by returning to don national colours at the time of personal grief, Tendulkar added a substantial layer to his now iconic status as one of Asia’s greatest sporting heroes.

“I made a mention of this incident in the team meeting,” Thomas continued. “Our coach Andy is aware of Tendulkar’s achievements in cricket and it helped him to motivate the team. The parallel also struck a chord with our Qatari owner.” 

So was there any additional pressure as he stepped out on to the pitch as a substitute and then took his penalty? “None at all,” said Wendo. “I wanted to do it for my Dad, my coach and teammates.

“But things didn’t go according to script. It happens. After all, worse things have happened to me recently. We have done well to be in the final and we have next year to set the record straight.”

Morris says he is bidding farewell to the 2016 Workers Cup with two wishes, one for 2017 and the other for 2022. “Next year, I will lift that trophy,” he said.

“And in 2022 I want Argentina to lift the big trophy out here in Doha. My Dad was a huge fan of Maradona and I am of Messi. Hopefully in 2022, another Argentina star will emerge to win the trophy and my children will be fans of his.”