Ebola: NFF Protests as Eaglets are Left Stranded in Lome

Nigeria U-17 internationals, the Golden Eaglets, have been denied entry into Libreville for this weekend’s African Junior Championship qualifier by Gabonese officials.

The Gabonese authorities disembarked members of the cadet team delegation from a Gabon-bound ASKY Airline flight on Friday in Lome. The team of 18 players and six officials were shell-shocked when staff of the airline informed them that the Gabonese authorities had ordered they be dumped out of the flight with their luggage.

The team had flown in to the local terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, from their base in Calabar and then traveled by road to Cotonou as a result of the cancellation of all Gabon-bound flights from Nigeria. The team members were issued boarding passes on the Asky Airline flight from Cotonou to Libreville, via Lome, only to realise they won’t be allowed to continue their journey from the Togolese capital.

Golden Eaglets Captain Kelechi Nwakali is Among the Delegation Stranded in Lome.
Golden Eaglets Captain Kelechi Nwakali is Among the Delegation Stranded in Lome.

These are all aftermath of delay in issuance of entry visas for the delegation to Gabon due to the host nation’s concerns over the ebola virus disease in Nigeria.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) have written a detailed letter of protest to the Confederation of African Football Association (Caf) over the incident.

The protest letter signed by NFF general secretary, Musa Amadu, read in part: “On getting to Lome, our delegation Members were disembarked and their luggage brought out of the aircraft, and told that they would no longer be flown to Libreville, on the orders of Gabonese Authorities.

“We strongly protest this harsh, unkind and unfair treatment of players below the age of 17, who have had to go through this arduous and tiring journey only to further their career in football.

“We are very much aware that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has stated clearly that football matches should not to take place in only three countries, namely Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, as a result of the Ebola Virus Disease pandemic.

“Our players have taken serious precautions and even have Ebola–free Medical Certificates.

“The Nigeria Football Federation is sorely disappointed by this attitude of Gabonese authorities and we implore CAF to come into this matter and determine the issue of the qualifying fixture.”

Meanwhile, Caf had earlier tried to intervene on the matter to ensure the Eaglets are issued entry visas to Gabon, but to no avail.

The overall winners of the final round of qualifiers progress into the group stages of the Africa U-17 Championship in Niger early next year.


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