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Eritrean players ‘refused to go home’ after football match in Botswana

Eritrean players ‘refused to go home’ after football match in Botswana
October 15
10:05 2015
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Eritrea lost on the pitch as well as off it when 10 players from their football team refused to return home after playing a World Cup qualifying match in Botswana.   

Botswana progressed to face Mali in the 2018 World Cup second round qualifier after a 5-1 aggregate win over Eritrea following a 2-1 victory in Francistown.

But according to the team’s officials, 10 of the players, who are now seeking asylum in Botswana, refused to board the plane home despite the intervention of the Eritrean ambassador in Botswana.

The players have been detained by police.

The Botswana Football Association (BFA) said they are yet to establish why the players refused to leave with their team-mates but a report in the Botswana newspaper The Voice said that “the players were distressed about the prospect of joining the Eritrean army and wanted to seek asylum despite being persuaded not to by the ambassador”.

The newspaper quoted Basadi Akoonyatse, the vice president of BFA, as saying that the Eritrean players were found missing from their hotel rooms early on Wednesday morning by team officials.

“A report was made to the police who spotted them loitering around Francistown, alleging that they were in search of a Red Cross centre where they could seek assistance to… be accorded asylum in Botswana,” she said.

Players’ representative, Dick Bayford, told Reuters that he had received reports of an attempt to remove the players forcibly from Botswana.

There have been a number of mass defections by Eritrean athletes in recent years.

In 2013, Uganda granted asylum to 15 Eritrean players and their team doctor after they absconded at the end of a football tournament.

 

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