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Afcon qualification ends in Benin-Sierra Leone Covid controversy

The Group L fixture between the pair was postponed after the Squirrels refused to accept alleged positive cases

Tuesday’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between Sierra Leone and Benin has been postponed after the visitors refused to accept the results of Covid-19 tests presented to them by the hosts.

Despite arriving at the National Stadium in Freetown for their final Group L game, the Benin team refused to leave their bus after being told within an hour before kick-off that five players—including star striker Steve Mounie—would be prevented from playing after tests showed they have tested positive for coronavirus.

Benin, who claim to have taken tests 72 hours earlier which produced negative results for all of the squad, did not accept the results produced by Sierra Leone and duly refused to contest the match without a full complement of players.

“We arrived at the stadium in Sierra Leone to learn that—bizarrely—five starters have Covid,” tweeted full-back Emmanuel Imorou. “What a comedy sketch.

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“We did our own tests 72 hours before the match—as planned,” he added. “After the time of the trip, we were tested again in Sierra Leone, and five positive results…the captain, and players from Ligue 1 and Ligue 2.”

The players were eventually allowed to leave the bus and return to their hotel after four and a half hours of waiting.

“What is currently happening is a disgrace for African football,” the Benin Football Federation wrote on their official Twitter handle. “We hope that the Confederation of African Football will take its responsibilities and—especially—take measures following these decisions.”

After a long postponement, where footage showed Benin’s squad remaining in their team bus in the car park at the National Stadium, the match was eventually called off.

The decision throws into doubt the identity of the 24th qualifier for the Africa Cup of Nations, scheduled for Cameroon in early 2022.

Benin, who headed into the match second in Group L behind Nigeria, would have advanced if they avoided defeat.

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However, victory for Sierra Leone would have almost certainly have been enough to take them through to the tournament either due to a superior head-to-head record or goal difference.

Sierra Leone were unable to put more pressure on Benin in their penultimate qualifier when they were held 0-0 away in Lesotho, while the Squirrels were defeated 1-0 by Nigeria in Porto-Novo to take qualification to the final group game.



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