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Bafana Bafana-Sierra Leone jeopardised by visa fiasco

9:48 PM IST 22/09/22
Sierra Leone.
The West Africans, who are without a win in their last three fixtures, are hopeful they will arrive in Johannesburg in time

The planned Bafana Bafana friendly match against Sierra Leone is in doubt as the West Africans are currently stranded due to visa hiccups.

The Leone Stars are scheduled to face Hugo Broos’ charges on Saturday at the FNB Stadium, but they are yet to arrive in Johannesburg following challenges experienced in securing the travel documents in time.

"We have had difficulties in securing visas to South Africa, which is what has caused the delay in terms of us getting there," Ibrahim Kamara, the Sierra Leone Football Association's head of media, said, as quoted by KickOff.

"Originally, we were expecting Safa [South African Football Association] to provide us with a cover letter to enable us to travel and get visas on arrival.

"But then it didn't happen, so we had to leave Sierra Leone and come to Ghana. But yesterday was a public holiday here, so the embassy didn’t open."

Kamara stated the travel challenge has been occasioned by the inaction of the South African FA who delayed facilitating their travel.

"We were hoping to get an umbrella clearance from the South African embassy through Safa, but we waited and waited until we had to come to Ghana," he added.

"Normally, immigration issues should be on the host FA to make the entry smooth, but it didn’t happen that way.

"We are due to now arrive in Johannesburg tomorrow [Friday] morning (06:00).

"With us here, we have seven players using Sierra Leone passports, including three foreign-based players and officials."

The federation official is hopeful they will make it in time ahead of the friendly clash against the former Africa Cup of Nations champions.

"However, we have been assured that we will get our visas this morning, and once that happens, we will be traveling later today," the media officer concluded.

"We spoke to the consulate yesterday and were assured that we would get the visas today and we have our direct flight booked for this evening."

Sierra Leone head coach John Keister had to make a change to his squad after Alhassan Koroma – initially included as one of the midfielders to take on South Africa – experienced a travel challenge. His place was filled by East End Lions’ winger Prince Barrie.

However, the presence of captain Steven Caulker – who recently joined Turkish Super Lig side Fatih Karagumruk on a free transfer – is a boost.

"Twelve of our players, including the captain [Steven] Caulker, who are using European passports, are already in South Africa," explained Kamara.

"There are direct flights from Europe and they don’t need to go through the same visa process as us, so their arrangements have been easier.

"The coach and his technical assistant are also already in Johannesburg."

Leone Stars – who have shared spoils with Bafana in three of their last four games - will be looking for their second victory against their Fifa international break opponents. 

Broos will lead his men in another friendly match on Tuesday against Botswana, while Sierra Leone are scheduled to face the Democratic Republic of Congo in their second match of the break.