Libreville, Gabon (AFP) – The Gabonese Football Federation on Wednesday accused Gambia of detaining its players for eight hours at an airport in an attempt to “weaken” them ahead of a crucial qualification match for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.
Federation president Pierre Alain Mounguengui told reporters in Libreville that “Africa’s image has been tarnished” following his country’s 2-1 Group D away defeat on Monday.
Gabon, whose star player is Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, would have qualified for next year’s finals with a win over Gambia but instead the hosts moved top of the group on goal difference.
“What the Gambians did, they did for a purpose: to win the game one way or another. And the way they did it was inhumane,” said Mounguengui.
Gambian authorities would not allow the Gabonese to leave the Banjui terminal late on Sunday night, claiming the visitors had not respected coronavirus protocols.
A Confederation of African Football (CAF) official told reporters in Banjul that the Gabonese did not produce Covid-19 test results while insisting they had been performed before leaving Libreville.
They were forced to hand over passports and the visiting players had to sleep on the floor for almost six hours from their midnight arrival before going to their hotel.
The Gabonese insist that they provided tests carried out less than 72 hours before their arrival, as required by the Gambian authorities.
Mounguengui also claimed that a general who seized the passports at the airport was also “vice-president of the Gambian football federation”.
Gabon coach Patrice Neveu told AFP that “strong action” needed to be taken otherwise African national teams might have trouble getting their players released by clubs.
Clubs “will no longer have confidence and fear for the physical well-being of their players,” said Frenchman Neveu.