FRANCISTOWN: Ten Eritrean players who were part of the team that faced the Zebras on Tuesday night, yesterday refused to join their countrymen to go back to their homeland.
This was after Zebras had humbled the visiting team 3-1 in a world cup qualifer. The Zebras advanced to the next round on 5-1 aggregate after the win.
It is reported that the 10 players absconded from their camp at Tati River Lodge in the early hours of Wednesday and were later found on the streets in Block 6.
The 10 players were taken to Kutlwano Police Station in Block 4. Two other players, who play professional football in Sweden, were said to have left with the morning flight, while 10 other players and four officials who missed their flight because of delays caused by this issue had left by road to catch a flight in Gaborone.
The Botswana Football Association (BFA) vice president - administration, Basadi Akoonyatse confirmed the incident. She said the players were scheduled to leave Francistown with the first flight to Gaborone yesterday morning.
“We confirm that indeed we have 10 players from Eritrea who have declined to join the rest of the team who has left for Gaborone to board their flight later this afternoon for the reasons that are yet to be established and confirmed,” she said.
“The ten players have remained here in Kutlwano Police as investigations are still on going as to why they refused to join others who went to Gaborone. We found out this morning that they have left their hotel and they were found trying to locate a Red Cross facility where they could raise their plea of not going back.”
Akoonyatse said she was not in a position to confirm whether or not the players would be seeking asylum in Botswana. “We are waiting for other responsible authorities to carry out their investigations and thereafter we will find out what could be done next,” she said.
“As BFA we will be assisting relevant authorities with investigation because these players are here through us.” She explained that the fact that the players refused to return to Eritrea had nothing to do with that country’s football association.
Eritrea players are no strangers to this situation as they have previously done the same in 2009 in Kenya where nine players disappeared from the camp after the game and then in 2011 in Tanzania 13 players disappeared. They also did the same in 2012 when 17 players and a team doctor left the camp to seek asylum in Uganda.