Randy Juan Muller, who turned 23 this week, flew to India on November 7 for a six-month contract to play soccer for ORPC Sports Club in Kerala, south India.
As the coronavirus pandemic spread, Muller booked a flight home to Ghana for March 30. A week before the flight, he took a train to Mumbai.
“I heard about the possibility of a lockdown in India … so I came to Mumbai to stay in a dormitory so I wouldn’t miss my flight,” Muller said. When he arrived in Mumbai on March 21, however, he was low on cash and struggled to find a room.
“I didn’t know anyone (in Mumbai) so I saw some policemen and told them my story. They told me to go to the airport,” said Muller.
Three days later, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown.
All international flight arrivals and departures were canceled.
Muller decided to sleep in the departures hall of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport until international flights resumed. But the lockdown kept being extended.
“People in the airport were very helpful. They gave me food and helped me a lot,” Muller said. One security guard even replaced his phone after it was damaged.
Muller called the Ghanaian Consulate in Mumbai but says he was told there was little they could do during the lockdown.
“I never got worried because I knew one day I’d get home,” he says. “I tried to stay strong and motivated …There are things in life you can never change.”
Muller’s ordeal came to an end in early June, after he made an appeal on Twitter, at the suggestion of a security officer.
A local journalist who saw his tweets shared his appeal for help and tagged Aaditya Thackeray, the state’s tourism and environment minister, who is also president of the Mumbai District Football Association. Thackeray is also the son of the state’s Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Within hours, Muller was taken from the airport to a hotel where he will stay until he’s able to take a flight home.
His football contract has now expired, but his ordeal hasn’t put him off from returning to India.
“I left home to feed home,” he says. “If I got another contract, I would love to come back.”