Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and his Gabon teammates were forced to spend the night sleeping on the airport floor ahead of their vital Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against the Gambia, reports ESPN.
Aubameyang used social media to highlight their plight after arriving at Banjul airport on Sunday, ahead of yesterday’s Group D clash in the Gambian capital.
The Gabon delegation was told they were not allowed to leave the airport because of an administrative problem and were forced to sleep on the floor before being allowed to leave in the morning after government intervention.
No reason was given for not allowing the team to exit the airport and head to their hotel after arrival. Gabon’s federation posted pictures of the incident on its Facebook page but without any comment.
“This will not demotivate us but people need to know and CAF needs to take responsibility,” he added later. “[It is] 2020 and we want Africa to grow but this is not how we will get there.”
However, Gambia head coach Tom Saintfiet has told ESPN that Gabon has been the engineers of their own plight after refusing to take COVID-19 tests upon their arrival.
“Gabon refused to be tested,” he said. “They arrived last night at 11.30 p.m. at night in the Gambia, they refused to be tested at the airport.
“That’s the reason they stayed so long there, and then in the hotel, they refused to be tested. The FIFA and CAF rules are clear; you have to be tested in the host country 24 hours before the match.
“When we went to Gabon, we were tested in Gabon at the airport and the hotel. We were twice tested there, even if we had certificates from Europe, in Africa, upon our arrival, that we are negative.
“They were refusing to play. If CAF had accepted this, it would have been a scandal to the hilt and a pandemic risk, because players can infect others, they can get sick, even die, and maybe in the future, clubs will refuse to release players as they return sick.
“It’s not possible, and is irresponsible to play this game without having tested players upon arrival in this country.”
Gabon is top of the group standings, three points ahead of the Gambia, who are seeking to reach the Nations Cup finals for the first time.
Before the match, Aubameyang said that Gabon was even more determined to get a result after sleeping at the airport.
“I know my team is ready like never before,” the Arsenal striker wrote on Twitter. “And me they did a mistake letting me sleep for a couple hours. Today is the day!!!
“No matter the result for me my team won already when I see the faces this morning everyone is hungry about Football.”
The top two teams in the group — which also includes Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo — advance to the finals in Cameroun in early 2022.