A crucial AFCON qualifier between Sierra Leone and Benin on Tuesday was cancelled following a standoff over Covid-19 test.
The Benin team locked themselves in their bus on arrival at the Siaka Steven Stadium in Freetown, refusing to alight, in protest over a declaration that five of their players tested positive for Covid-19.
An official of the visiting team told reporters that they didn't trust the results from Sierra Leone’s National Covid-19 Response Center (NaCOVERC), claiming that every member of their team had been tested prior to their departure from Benin and found to be negative.
According to reports, the Benin officials said all the five players who tested positive were part of the first 11 team—key players—and they couldn't take the chance of playing without them.
Both the Squirrels of Benin and the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone need the game to qualify from Group L, alongside Nigeria which already qualified for next year’s continental tournament scheduled to take place in Cameroon.
The kick-off on Tuesday was postponed twice before a final decision was taken to cancel the match.
The match officials said the Confederation of African Football (CAF) ordered the cancellation, after the prolonged delay due to the standoff.
CAF was said to be in a crisis meeting and is expected to make a decision later on whether the match will be rescheduled or Sierra Leone takes the three points.
Benin needs just a draw in the game to book their place in next year’s tournament, while Sierra Leone needs a win, without the visitors scoring against them, to qualify.
If it succeeds, it will be Sierra Leone’s first time at the continental competition since 1996.
President Julius Maada Bio, who was military leader when the Leone Stars last participated in the tournament, has promised the players a reward of $10,000 each and a piece of land for every player if they qualify.