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Sierra Leone, Benin Republic await CAF resolution amid Covid-19 standoff

THE Confederation of African Football is expected to resolve the stalemate between Sierra Leone and Benin Republic on Wednesday after both teams failed to play their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Tuesday night.

The Group L tie was initially scheduled to kick off at 5pm like the other match in the group between Nigeria and Lesotho.

However, the Benin team refused to play after rejecting Sierra Leone’s claim that five of their (Benin) players had tested positive for Covid-19 and would have to be withdrawn.

Talks were held between Sierra Leone, Benin and CAF officials in Freetown but they failed to resolve the issue as both squads remained in their hotels.

The game was even pushed back by three hours to give them time to reach an agreement but both sides refused to budge and the match was not held.

The Benin Football Federation said during the impasse: “A shame for African football what is currently happening, we hope CAF will take its responsibilities and take strong measures at the end of the discussions. We will keep you informed, very quickly whether or not we are playing this match.”

The discussions obviously did not yield any results and CAF is expected to make a ruling soon.

African countries have been known to go to any lengths in order to win important home matches, including using underhand tactics.

Home countries are in charge of Covid-19 tests and there have been accusations that these tests have been weaponised to stop players of visiting teams from getting involved.

Nigeria’s Alex Iwobi tested positive for the virus in Benin and was ruled out of last Saturday’s game in Porto Novo. The Nigeria Football Federation suspected the result was not true and when the Everton forward was retested in Lagos, he returned a negative result and was cleared to feature against Lesotho on Tuesday.

Benin are second behind Nigeria in the group with a three-point lead over Sierra Leone and both teams have a chance of finishing second and claiming the second ticket in the group.

Benin player Cedric Hountondji insisted the test results were fake, saying: “Sierra Leone says we have five Covid cases which is not true. In all five cases, some have already had Covid and therefore have antibodies. We were also tested in Benin before traveling and everyone was negative.”

The other 23 places at next year’s AFCON have been confirmed as the continent awaits who will make the 24th spot between Sierra Leone and Benin Republic.

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