Sunday, March 22, 2020

FIFA U-17 girls stranded in Cameroon

People around the world have had a challenging week as cities and even whole countries go into lockdown with efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.

But perhaps few have had a week quite as tough as Sao Tome and Principe’s under-17 side. After losing 10-0 on aggregate to Cameroon in a qualifier for the Fifa U-17 women’s World Cup, the team have been stuck in Yaounde as successive countries closed their borders just as the flights they were meant to take home were scheduled to leave.

Their original return flight, the day after the heavy loss, was for Sunday, via the Equatorial Guinea capital, Malabo.

But that morning, Equatorial Guinea closed its borders, so the flight never happened. Instead, the team were booked for the following morning to go home via Gabon. But come Monday morning, the same thing happened.

And Cameroon itself has now closed its own borders, meaning the team remain in the country with no exact idea when they might be able to leave.

However, the President of Cameroon’s Football Federation (Fecafoot), Seidou Mbombo Njoya, has told the BBC that his organisation will take responsibility for the team’s stay in the country for as long as they are there.

“We have decided to take charge of the Sao Tome team’s expenses because we feel it’s the safest thing to do at the moment,” Njoya told BBC Sport Africa.

However, FIFA and CAF have arranged for a chartered flight to take the girls back home.

“Thanks to the intervention from Caf and Fifa, we have been able to charter a flight for the Sao Tome delegation and we’re working closely with the ministry of transport to see if they could be granted special permission to fly out of the country.”