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Afcon Qualifier: Sierra Leone vs Benin abandoned amid Covid-19 controversy

Monday’s decisive Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between Sierra Leone and Benin Republic did not take place after the hosts refused to accept the results of their Covid-19 tests presented to them.

While the Leone Stars were warming up for the make-or-break encounter, news emanated that six of the hosts’ players namely Ibrahim Sesay, Francis Koroma, Augustus Kargbo, Idriss Kanu, Alusin Koroma and Kassim Sima Turay tested positive for the virus.

And as a result of that, the Sierra Leoneans refused to go on with the encounter as they questioned the timing and reliability of the Covid-19 test. After several hours of delays, the crunch tie was cancelled.

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“The game has refused to go on because of questions surrounding the Covid-19 results about our players,” an official of the Sierra Leone Football Association who pleaded anonymity told Goal.

“This is foul play and it will not be tolerated. The Leone Stars were already warming up for the game and suddenly, results came out and showed six of our players tested positive.

“As it stands, the game is yet to start, and I am not in the best position to find out if the game would go on or not.”

The same scenario occurred on March 30 as Benin Republic's players refused to leave their bus after being told within an hour before kick-off that six players—including star striker Steve Mounie —would not play after tests showed they had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Squirrels had claimed to have taken tests 72 hours earlier which produced negative results for all of the squad, 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. What a comedy sketch!” defender Emmanuel Imorou tweeted.

Nonetheless, the Confederation of African Football moved the game to Monday, June 14 at the General Lansana Conte Stadium.

As of the time of filing this report, the game had not started while Caf is yet to issue a statement about the ongoing controversy.

Benin lost 1-0 the last time out to Gernot Rohr’s Nigeria, while the Leone Stars recorded a 0-0 draw in Maseru, Lesotho.

Michel Dussuyer’s side needs a draw to guarantee their place in the biennial African football showpiece, while victory for John Keister’s team will send Sierra Leone through.