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Azira Reveals Painful Story Of Missing ‘MLS Is Back’ Tourney

Uganda Cranes star Mike Azira has revealed how he was hard done to miss Chicago Fire’s ‘MLS is back’ tournament recently due to an injury.

The MLS-is-Back Tournament was a one-off tournament during the 2020 Major League Soccer season to mark the league’s return to action after being suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tournament was held behind closed doors from July 8 to August 11, 2020 in Florida, near Orlando.

Azira got an eye injury during a training session on the morning the team was set to leave for Florida.

“It happened on the very day that we were supposed to travel,” Azira is quoted by the club website. “When I got hit in the eye, I was like, ‘I’ll be OK.’ But with internal bleeding, within a few minutes I’d lost my sight.”

He was given a recovery time of two weeks and there was going to be a mandatory quarantine upon arrival in Orlando.

“I was like, ‘You know, I need to stay positive and have the right mentality and focus on recovering and hopefully I’ll join the team after,’” he adds. “After I got cleared by the doctors, they said, ‘Micheal, you can’t travel. When you travel, you’ll be quarantined by yourself and you won’t be able to train with the team.’ So, the coaches had a decision to make, and they thought it wasn’t a good idea to come there.”

“It was a bummer, but at the end of the day things happen and you learn from these things. I got some time with my family, which is very important. There’s some bad, and then there’s some good in it. It’s about perspective.”

Consequently, Chicago Fire finished bottom of group B behind San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps.

“That was really hard,” Azira said. “To watch your teammates on TV, and you’re at home? Something is not right. Why am I here and they’re down there? I’m supposed to be there. I’m supposed to be the best teammate I can be, close to my teammates. I should be in Orlando. I should be there cheering my friends and contributing on the field.”

“We used to talk to Jonny (Bornstein) and CJ, (Sapong)” Azira said. “We used to FaceTime, do some video calls and talk to them. We also have a group chat. We encourage each other. On gamedays, we’ll be like, ‘Hey guys, good luck today,’ and stuff like that.“

Chicago who ended with three points, only won game, beating Seattle 2-1 in a tourney that was won by Portland Timbers.

They even did a video for us,” Azira added. “That was the coolest thing for the guys to do for us. That was really nice, like ‘Guys, we do this for you.’ It’s a good group. I hope we can continue to improve and get results for our club and for our fans.”

Mike Azira. Chicago Fire

“Feels Good To Be Back”

Azira returned to training and was has been fully cleared to play again with teammates.

“It feels good to get back with the team,” Azira said. “You feel like you’re part of something. Unlike the other days, when you’re just training by yourself or with another player, just two of you on an entire field. It feels great now to be back with the guys and get back in the grind.

“To have them in the locker room and to get that brotherhood you have – talking to each other, goofing off – then going on the field and working hard and playing for each other, it’s really great,” Azira said. “(Head Coach) Rapha (Wicky) does a good job of trying to bring everyone together and being positive and encouraging everyone. It feels great to be back.”

The side will face Columbus Crew on the road this Friday ahead of a tight schedule that has Cincinnati, New York and New England shortly after amidst Covid19 restrictions.

Azira adds: “It’s different, but it’s something we have to adapt to,” Azira said. “We have to be ready to go no matter what. At the end of the day, we’re soccer players and we should be able to adapt no matter the situation.”

“I’m feeling great. Our trainers have done a good job to prepare us as much as possible. I look forward to providing for the team and to contribute as much as I can.”

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