Organisers of Africa’s most prestigious national team tournament were on Wednesday attempting to sort out the disarray and claims of coronavirus-infected players which hijacked a crucial qualifier between Sierra Leone and Benin for next January’s Africa Cup of Nations.
The match to determine Group L’s runner-up to Nigeria was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in Freetown.
But it was postponed amid acrimonious scenes and mudslinging after Sierra Leonean medical teams said the Benin goalkeeper Saturnin Allagbé had coronavirus along with defenders Cedric Hountondji and Khaled Adénon.
The striker Steve Mounié as well as the midfielder Jodel Dossou were also identified and told they had to be isolated from the rest of the team and could not play.
Benin team officials refused and demanded proof.
Match delegates from the Confederation of African Football (Caf) are attempting to piece together the course of events that led to the disputes and the eventual departure of Benin from Sierra Leone.
A Caf spokesperson said: “We’re investigating the matter and will come back with a decision as soon as possible.”
Third-placed Sierra Leone need to beat Benin to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations finals for the first time since 1996.
Benin are seeking to emulate their feats from the 2019 tournament in Egypt where they reached the last eight for the first time.
“It is outrageous and it makes African soccer look backward,” said Dossou, who plays for the French second division club Clermont Foot.
He told RFI he and Houtondji contracted Covid-19 last month and could not have been reinfected.
“Medically, it’s impossible for me to have Covid,” he added. “The doctors were clear: we can’t get it again in less than three weeks. What’s more we’ve had five or six tests within a week.
“They turned out to be negative in France and in Benin. And when we get to Sierra Leone, they bring out these cases.”