Schalke star Rabbi Matondo admits his struggles in lockdown Germany

Scott Polacek Manchester City FC

Rabbi Matondo was among the wave of fearless young British footballers who set out to forge their futures in Germany.

The teenager left Manchester City for Schalke in a £10million deal last year and joined players such as Jadon Sancho and Ademola Lookman in the Bundesliga.

Matondo already has more than 20 appearances under his belt, he has made his senior debut for Wales and he is preparing for German football to return after the coronavirus pandemic.

Rabbi Matondo joined Bundesliga side Schalke last season and has showed signs of promise

He is now preparing to return to the pitch after weeks of coronavirus lockdown in Germany

He is now preparing to return to the pitch after weeks of coronavirus lockdown in Germany

‘We’ve been back training every day for a couple of weeks,’ said the 19-year-old, as he told Sportsmail how German football was plotting its route back into competition after the lockdown.

‘Not training as a team but in groups of four. One group comes in at 10am and the next at 12 and then 2pm and so on. They mix the groups up every two days or so.

‘You come to the training ground and collect your kit and they tell you where you’re changing. It will be your own personal changing area and shower. You get changed and go out on the pitch. It’s so strict.

‘We haven’t been tested. Our temperatures are taken every time we come in. So they have an idea if we’re not well. No-one has had symptoms. There are a lot of cleaners around the place. In the gym, when the groups swap over you see the cleaners move in to clean everything.’

He spoke of the 'strict' methods in training to keep the squad healthy, with players having their temperatures checked every day and David Wagner (L) observing from an elevated area

He spoke of the ‘strict’ methods in training to keep the squad healthy, with players having their temperatures checked every day and David Wagner (L) observing from an elevated area

Matondo will have a chance to shine again with the Bundesliga expected to restart soon

The training regime has been adjusted, with players spread out and manager David Wagner, formerly of Huddersfield, watches over them from an elevated area above the pitches.

‘There’s no body contact,’ said Matondo. ‘Normally we’d do small-sided games but there’s none of that, no possession drills; we’re not doing the rondos. It’s just been passing drills, crossing and finishing drills, and we’re all spread out.

‘It’s different to the usual routine. That’s how it’s been since we came back. Every Bundesliga club is now doing what we’re doing.’

Schalke are sixth in the league and a winless run of seven games has seen them drop out of contention for the Champions League. They have not played since a 1-1 draw against Hoffenheim.

The winger has scored once in 21 games for the Bundesliga side, who sit sixth in the table

The winger has scored once in 21 games for the Bundesliga side, who sit sixth in the table

The teenager, who signed in 2019, said he has found it tough to stay at home alone in isolation 

‘We stopped for about three weeks,’ said Matondo. ‘Schalke gave us individual programmes to do at home, to go out for runs, to keep us fit and active. We weren’t allowed to fly out of the country or have any contract with people outside the house. My family are all back in Cardiff.

‘I’m used to being away from home. I left home at 15 to join Manchester City. I live on my own in Gelsenkirchen so I’m used to being alone but it can be tough when you can’t go out to see friends or go to shops and restaurants.’

He has used his spare time to improve his German and is trying to learn Welsh with the help of an app on his phone.

Matondo was also among those involved in the STAY INtertoto Cup, where professional footballers played FIFA against each other online to raise money for NHS staff.

The Schalke star has used his spare time at home to play FIFA to raise money for the NHS

The Schalke star has used his spare time at home to play FIFA to raise money for the NHS 

He left home aged 15 to join Man City, which he says helps him cope with the current situation

He left home aged 15 to join Man City, which he says helps him cope with the current situation

‘We hear there are talks going on about whether the season can continue,’ he said. ‘My feeling is that it will probably will come back soon behind closed doors.

‘Every footballer will tell you they want to get back playing but it won’t be the same without the fans’ support. The atmosphere in Germany is brilliant. The fans here love their football and really get behind their teams.

‘We know these are very difficult times for everybody so safety is the most important thing. You’ve just got to feel blessed if your family and friends are OK. Hopefully we get through this and everything else including football can wait.’

Matondo said he decided to leave the Etihad after being promised first team football abroad

Matondo said he decided to leave the Etihad after being promised first team football abroad

Matondo admits the move abroad has been testing at times but has no doubt he made the right decision to join Schalke.

‘At Manchester City, I was doing well and getting a lot of attention from other clubs, telling me they wanted me in the first team,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t really in and around the first team at City so much. I wasn’t getting a sniff of being on the bench.

‘Manchester City is a top club and I’ve lots of respect for them. At the time I was thinking about my own development and thought a move abroad might be the one for me.

‘There was a lot of talk at the time about how not many young players were breaking through in the Premier League and I was thinking it might be right to move abroad and get some good experience. Maybe some life lesson as well.

‘Not a lot of people can say they moved abroad to work at 18 and lived alone. I thought it would be good for me. I thought I was mature and it’s been the right thing for me.’

Matondo sought advice from City star Leroy Sane, who came through the Schalke ranks

Matondo sought advice from City star Leroy Sane, who came through the Schalke ranks

Another appealing factor was Schalke’s success nurturing young talent, such as Mesut Ozil, Manuel Neuer and Leroy Sane.

Matondo picked the brains of his former City team-mate Sane about the club in Gelsenkirchen.

‘He told me the fans were top fans and would love me for ever if I worked hard and did the right things,’ he said. ‘He gave me advice on the Schalke way.’

Matondo made his debut as a substitute against Borussia Monchengladbach soon after arriving and was selected to start four days later in the German Cup against Fortuna Dusseldorf.

The 19-year-old has endured ups and downs at the club but doesn't regret his decision to join

The 19-year-old has endured ups and downs at the club but doesn’t regret his decision to join

‘My first start was such an amazing memory,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t expecting it and I only found out an hour and a half before kick-off when I saw my name on the board. I wasn’t expecting to be called on so soon. It was crazy.’

Matondo scored his first Schalke goal in a win at Leipzig in September but there have been downs as well as ups.

‘It’s been tough at times,’ he said. ‘Sometimes you don’t play and you can be frustrated when things are not going right. You’re away from your family and friends but overall it’s been an unbelievable experience so far. I’ve really enjoyed it. It was 100 per cent the right decision.’

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