NAIROBI, December 15 – Twelve players of the Eritrean national football squad have gone missing in Kenya, the Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) general secretary Nicholas Musonye told AFP on Monday.The players were expected to fly back to Asmara on Saturday night after the team was knocked out in the quarter-finals of the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup but failed to show up at the airport.
They are reported to have disappeared in Nairobi with the intention of seeking asylum.
"I am saddened by the whole scenario. It is not good for the players to disappear because it gives a bad impression for the region," Musonye said.
"I have had a very good relationship with the Eritrean Football Federation. But the Eritrean government may not be willing to release players to compete in future tournaments because of this episode," he added.
It is not the first time that Eritrean sportsmen have defected.
In May 2006, four players of the Eritrean football club, Red Sea, who were in the country to play the Kenyan champions, Tusker in an African Champions League match, defected in Nairobi after evading their government escorts.
To curb the trend, the Eritrean government introduced in 2007 a policy requiring all travelling athletes to deposit a sum of 100,000 Nakfa (6,700 dollars) before leaving the country and to remain in the company of the official entourage while overseas.