The New Times (Kigali)

Eritrea Players Disappear in Kampala

Photo: Steven Depolo/Flickr
The incident in Kampala was the third time the Eritrean football team had disappeared in an African state to claim asylum.

AT least 14 Eritrean national team players have disappeared in Kampala after being eliminated from the on-going Cecafa Tusker Challenge Cup.

According to officials, the players disappeared on Sunday night, a day after losing to Rwanda 0-2 in the final Group C game on Saturday, leaving their head coach Teklit Negash and assistant coach Berhane Breta in the hotel as organisers came to pick and take them to Entebbe Airport.

The Cecafa Secretary General Nicholas Musonye told Times Sport yesterday, "It is unfortunate for the entire national team to just disappear like that. But Police is currently handling the matter."

Eritrea was in Group C, where they played three games, drawing 0-0 with Zanzibar, losing 2-3 to Malawi and 0-2 to Rwanda.

Although they played some of the most attractive football in the tournament, the results left them at the bottom of the table, implying an early flight back to Asmara.

However, like on two previous occasions, (Tanzania-2011 and Kenya-2009), the players decided not to return to their home country. The previous groups that have chosen not return home have cited a lack of freedom in Eritrea.

According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch 2012 World human rights report on the small Horn of Africa nation which was carved out of Ethiopia after a decades-long independence struggle is still viewed by its citizens as being repressive.

Many Eritrean refugees are currently living in Kampala and many other refugee camps in Uganda.

Coach Negash was expected to field the same team against Ethiopia in the African Nations Championship qualifiers. The teams are set to play in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, between 14-16 January, with the return tie in Addis Ababa set for two weeks later.

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Refugee Status for Eritrean Football Team

The incident in Kampala was the third time the Eritrean football team had disappeared in an African state to claim asylum.

The Ugandan government has reportedly granted refugee status to 15 former members of Eritrea's national football team who disappeared in the country in 2012 while taking part in a ... Read more »