Gabonese footballers and officials were forced to sleep on the floor at Banjul International Airport on Sunday after the Gambian authorities rejected their COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test reports, an official source confirmed in Banjul on Monday.
According to the source, the Gabonese team arrived on Sunday night for their Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against Gambia but the authorities rejected their COVID-19 PCR test reports.
Efforts to reach the communication director of Gambia Football Federation failed.
Gabon defeated Gambia 2-1 in last Thursday’s Day 3 qualifying match and are to play their Day 4 match in Bakau, Gambia, on Monday.
One of the detained players is Arsenal’s Gabonese star, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who said he was held hostage at the Banjul International Airport in Gambia as Gabonese players and officials were kept there for more than six hours until Monday morning without their passports.
Aubameyang hit out at African football authorities on Monday after the Gabon squad were held “hostage” at the airport just hours before an important Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying match.
The squad, which also includes Fulham star Mario Lemina and former Sunderland midfielder Didier Ndong, spent more than six hours at the Banjul Airport after their passports were held by staff.
Images of the frustrated players lying on the floor have circulated online, with the squad said to have been stopped at around 11 p.m. local time last night, before being released at 6 a.m. on Monday.
Earlier reports said the Gabonese footballers and officials were forced to sleep on the floor at the Airport after the Gambian authorities rejected their COVID-19 PCR test reports.
Aubameyang took to social media to air his grievances with the way his squad had been treated by the Gambia authorities.
“What a great night at the airport,” the Gunners’ star tweeted to the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
“Just want to know why Gambia (kept) our passports for hours and they (kept) us at the Airport. Are we hostages or what?
“Are you gonna close your eyes? Want to see the Next Episode of this Film,” he added.
The 31-year-old then replied to a fan who suggested that teams are using new COVID-19 restrictions to intimidate their opponents, insisting that the Gabonese are now more motivated than before.
“It will not demotivate us but people need to know and especially that the @CAF_Online [Confederation of African Football] take these responsibilities,” Aubameyang replied.
“2020 and we want Africa to grow, that’s not how we’re going to get there!!!”
Despite the ordeal, the squad kept their spirits high as they played music and made jokes during their prolonged stay.
Gabon take on Gambia in the AFCON qualifier at 4 p.m, with their confidence high having won the first-leg tie 2-1 in Gabon.
Aubameyang was on the scoresheet as Patrice Neveu’s side bounced back from their 2-0 defeat by Benin during the October international break.
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