November 25, 2020


AfricaTopForum – News Around Africa

Jungle Africa football

7 min read

Ade Ojeikere


WHY are we so blessed in Africa? Why do we go to any length to avenge defeats? Why do we forget that the flexibility of sports fixture could pitch countries against each other in the not too distant future? This writer cannot understand how the Gambians would expect any warm reception from the Gabonese in years to come. Truth be told, sports isn’t a warfare. Sports unite tribes that are divided. Sports is a business. Sports entertain, hence people flock to the stadia across the world to watch matches. It is an emotive game that could force fans against each other. Such barbaric acts have, however, been condemned and culprits punished appropriately.

Most African countries have forgotten that the world is a global village such that at the press of the button good and bad news pop up. It’s very disturbing seeing scenes captured on video and written with comments from not a less a superstar in world football Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang et al streaming the barbaric conduct of officials in the Gambia, who made the Gabonese sleep at their airport, 24 hours to a game. What a country? A football game?

Simply because the Gambians were beaten 2-1 in the first leg game? It should be a matter of life and death. The incident led to accusations of dirty tricks by the Gambia, who won the Group D clash 2-1.

Aubameyang complained about being held hostage as the Gabonese were  kept in a Gambian airport, Banjul International Airport for six hours until 6 am without their passports, hours before a key AFCON clash. What won’t we see with African football authorities with the continent’s governing soccer Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) just restricting all that happened before, during, and after the game. This means that whatever occurred before match day doesn’t really matter unless it involves a disaster. Pity.

Aubameyang showed his frustration after three hours, posting a video at 02:31 which read: “Still waiting to enter the Gambia, and we play at 4 pm. Nice.” A follow-up soon after showed the team listening to music and joking, with Aubameyang adding that “they will not discourage us”.

“Finally on the bus. Thanks for the extra motivation, Gambia,” Aubameyang wrote.

“This will not demotivate us but people need to know and especially that CAF takes these responsibilities. In 2020, we want Africa to grow and this is not how we’re going to get there!!,” Aubameyang tweeted.

The Gambians visited Gabon without qualms although they lost the game 2-1. What then could have informed the primitive method of holding the visitor hostage becomes a poser for CAF to unravel soonest. But Aubamenyang has some doubts in CAF  being firm. Of course, based on similar experiences in the past or what happened to other countries in the past? hold your fire Aubamenyang but of course, there is free speech.

Aubameyang said in a Twitter message to CAF: ‘Just want to know why the Gambia kept our passports for hours and they kept us at the airport. Are we hostages or what? Are you gonna close your eyes?’

Aubamenyang’s poser to CAF chieftains is instructive since he represents the best of the Africans in Europe without incredible outings playing for top Barclays English Premier League side Arsenal. CAF needs to act fast otherwise, Arsenal FC’s management wouldn’t release Aubamenyang to the Gabonese given the Gabonese’s value to the English and what they stand to gain having a fit Aubamenyang playing the team’s matches. The fears by Gabon FA boss aren’t, therefore, surprising. Gabon boss Patrice Neveu believes Arsenal will block Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from future call-ups following Monday’s ordeal after the striker was held in a Gambian airport for six hours.

If Arsenal’s management decides this way, then the little spark which the continental games have in terms of attendance by the fans and sponsorship drive by the local FAs would be destroyed. Many Gabonese won’t bother to watch their country’s matches life knowing that their biggest stars won’t be available. If Arsenal stops Aubmenyang, for instance (God forbid), other European clubs would emulate them by preventing their stars from coming to Africa to play for their countries simply because of the unsportsmanlike conduct of the Gambia FA personnel.

  The Gabonese have their share of the blame by refusing to disclose their arrival time. It was expedient of them to tell their hosts their arrival time. If they sent words that they would be at the airport at 6 pm, then they should have abided by what they sent. If for any reason their schedule changed, it was only fair to inform their hosts of the change in arrival time.

Omar Sey, the CAF health officer for The Gambia / Gabon match explained that: ‘’The Gabonese players refused to surrender their Covid-19 test certificates to authorities at the Banjul International Airport. The players were scheduled to arrive at 6 pm but instead arrived at midnight without any correspondence to Banjul.

‘’The players also refused to have their samples taken at the airport.  Under the rules no one should be allowed in without a certificate or testing at the airport but with the intervention of the Gabonese Ambassador the players were allowed to go to the hotel where their samples will be taken this morning (Monday) with the results expected before kickoff at 5 pm.’’

Is this a case of inexperience on the part of the CAF man in handling such tricky issues? Could it be that the CAF was speaking tongue in check for fear of incurring the wrath of his hosts? Or was it the fault of the Gabonese? These are posers which CAF must find out by set up a panel to look at what happened in the Gambia

The Covid-19 regulations have become the platform for countries to humiliate their visitors.

Sports isn’t a warfare. Those countries such as Gabon and Nigeria who rejected the way they were treated by their hosts hinged their reservations on the kind gesture they extended to their hosts in the first game. Why some countries turn what should be a reciprocal act to politics still beats this writer. What CAF chieftains must inform all the countries when the next round of qualifiers are played on March 22 and March 30 next year, would be for them to tolerate everyone. Covid-19 protocols are of international standards. All countries must respect what everyone has and subject themselves to what obtains in particular countries.  Undergoing Covid-19 tests shouldn’t be trivialised.

Deliberately, I have delayed looking at Nigeria’s double-header against Sierra Leone in Benin City and in Freetown because we needed such lessons to chart a new course for ourselves. what happened to the Super Eagles had to do with the players’ refusal to nail the Leone Stars with as many goals as possible. With a four-goal advantage, Samuel Chukwueze took things for granted by attempting to put the ball in between the Sierra Leonean defender’s legs.

Chukwueze had successfully done that to the defender, apparently showing that was his only dribbling style. He, therefore, became predictable. The 4-4 scoreline started with that mistake. One isn’t, therefore, surprised that our players do not play a string of matches for their European clubs because they lack tactical discipline. Nigerian players like to play to the gallery in such instances. If Chukwueze did that with his

Spanish side, he would spend a long time on the bench unless his replacement doesn’t live to expectation.

I don’t care what Gernot Rohr told our players at halftime in Benin. If the truth must be told, our players should beat Sierra Leone home and away, even if the coach was sent off the pitch in both games in the first minute of the game. Our armada of star from Europe always come short when playing for Nigeria. This is the between our players and the Cameroonians, Ghanaians to mention a few. And this kind of attitude exhibited in Benin City, in particular, predates this squad. Our players’ mindset before matches against hitherto minnows in the continent has been awful. Need I waste space to list matches where our big boys haven’t come to the party? Is it the first game which handled as Super Eagles in Rwanda, where the late Stephen Keshi had to abuse some of the big stars at halftime to wake up and good play football? If Vincent Enyeama wasn’t at his best, Rwanda would have beaten Nigeria because of our stars’ lukewarm attitude to the game. It ended on a barren note because of Enyeama’s brilliance.

Make no mistake here. I’m not exonerating Rohr. I’m only saying that our players must rise up to flog countries that deserve to be beaten groggy with goals. Those who employed him know what they saw in him. I look forward to what becomes of Rohr before the country’s next game against Benin Republic on March 22 next year.