AFCON QUALIFIERS FALLOUT
Arsenal have been left furious by the way their top player, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was treated while away on international duty with Gabon, with the national team manager believing their star striker could be blocked from future call-ups.
The Gunners forward revealed through a series of pictures on social media how he and the rest of Gabon squad were forced to sleep on the floor after arriving at Banjul International Airport in Gambia on Monday morning.
After having their passports taken, Aubameyang revealed that he and his team-mates were made to feel like ‘hostages’ before being allowed into the country six hours later for their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Gambia.
The incident sparked an investigation by African football’s governing body into the hold up, which left Arsenal furious with how their talismanic striker had been treated.
Gabon boss Patrice Neveu now believes that the incident will see Arsenal prevent Aubameyang from representing his country again – and he expects the same from other players’ clubs.
Neveu told reporters on Wednesday: “Arsenal called Pierre-Emerick. After seeing him in those conditions, it’s over… They won’t let him come again, and it will be the same for players from other clubs.
“It’s understandable. They are high level players and when they come on international duty, they need to have a minimum of comfort,” he observed.
He added: “All the players tried to sleep on the airport floor. Imagine if Aubameyang, a player who costs more than €1million per month, gets injured.
“(Arsenal) can be annoyed after what’s happened, to make a player sleep the floor.”
Aubameyang detailed the saga in social media posts and called on the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to act.
The delay had already begun before Aubameyang’s first post at 11.30pm. After further messages, including images of team-mates sleeping on the airport floor, Gabon were finally on the bus to their hotel at 5.56am, less than 12 hours before kick-off.
The incident led to accusations of dirty tricks by Gambia, who won the Group D clash 2-1.
Aubameyang said in a Twitter message to CAF: “Just want to know why Gambia keep our passports for hours and they keep us at the airport. Are we hostage or what? Are you gonna close your eyes.”
The 31-year-old then replied to a fan who had suggested that teams are using new Covid-19 restrictions to employ intimidation tactics so as to give their team an advantage, 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 !!!”
CAF, who are investigating the incident, held an ‘emergency’ video conference call between the two countries on Monday.