Cameroon/Gambia: Logistical Mix-Up Leaves Gambia’s Scorpions Stranded in Douala After Exiting AFCON

Three days after Gambia's Scorpions football team exited the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Cameroon, a number of the players have still to return to the Gambia because of a problem with flights.

The players in Douala took to social media to express their anger and frustration. One of the oldest players on the team, Ebrima Sohna, was the first to break the silence in an Instagram Live Video.

"We are not in this tournament for money or anything. We are all doing this for our country, therefore the least we deserve is respect," says Sohna.

"This is the same disrespect we have been facing since 2005, when we went to Peru for the U17 World Cup tournament, and we can't just keep quiet about it," he says.

No sooner had the #Scorpions brought joy, fame & respect to #Gambia than the officials responsible for football taking us back to the old days of mediocrity & shame. The reported logistical problems regarding the return of #TeamGambia is sad and not a good way to treat the stars — Sulayman Mamwaali Jammeh (@sulaywaali) February 1, 2022

At least 11 players are reported to have left the training camp and booked their flights to return to their clubs.

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The 15 players still in Cameroon and team officials had hoped to fly out on Monday.

"Only 15 of us are here; the rest of the players went back. Some of us are being constantly called by our club directors and demanding our return," says Gambia forward Lamin Jallow.

"Even national teams that were knocked out after us all went back to their clubs and countries, like the Equatorial Guinea team," he adds.

Financial and logistical problems are the norm in Gambian sports. Olympic sprinter Gina Bass was mocked as a "poor Olympian" after she revealed she had to ask for rides just to get to practice.

The final countdown

Gambia Sports Minister Bakary Badjie, currently in Limbe with delegates and football fans, told RFI that the delay is a logistics problem and the logistics committee under the national coordinating committee for AFCON is working on it.

"We understand the anguish and frustration of the players, but this is not our wish. We are doing everything possible to ensure the safe return of everyone," says Sadibou Kamaso, vice chairman of the logistics committee for the Gambian team.

"We fulfilled our part of the contractual agreement we had with the airline, we are dealing with a charted flight but they failed to fulfill their part of the contract," says Kamaso, adding that he has brought in lawyers to rectify the situation.

The clock is ticking for the players to fly out of Cameroon. The African Football Confederation (CAF) gives teams 48 hours to teams after their exit. This means CAF will not provide security and accommodation as of Wednesday.

Kamaso says they are aware of the 48-hour deadline, and are doing everything possible to fly everyone out on Tuesday night, considering the serious security risk.

The incident also left Gambian fans disappointed after a number of them drove to the airport to welcome the team.

"I was very happy going to the airport to see our players because they did well and made us all proud, but got disappointed when I received a call that the flight was canceled," says Scorpions fan Modou Darboe.

Artmotion S.Africa

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