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Seven Eritrean players go missing in Kampala

Eritrea celebrate their goal against Harambee Stars. PHOTO/Timothy Olobuu

KAMPALA, Uganda, Dec 23 – Seven Eritrean players were not part of the squad that jetted back to Asmara from the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup in Uganda on Sunday as they could not be traced after the final on Thursday.

Robel Kidane who was Eritrea’s top scorer at the tournament with three goals is one of the seven players who were reported missing from the team’s camp, according to Eritrean news outlets.

Others who were not on the plane back home according to @EritreaFootball were Yosief Mebrahtu, Filmon Semere, Abel Ogbay, Ismail Jahar, Isias Abraham and Eyob Girmay.

Capital Sports sources intimate that the players escaped from their team hotel in the wee hours of Friday morning and efforts to trace them were futile.

“Their hotel rooms are usually barricaded at night by the team officials but they jumped over the fence and escaped very early on Friday,” a source told Capital Sports.

Another one added; “There is a very big village in Kampala where most of the Eritreans stay and those players were whisked away by their fellow Eritreans. I heard that the police went there to try and get them but they escaped again.”

The Eritrean players were residing in the same hotel as the Harambee Stars.

Eritrea players protest a penalty during their 2019 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup match against hosts Uganda at the Lugogo Arena in Kampala, Uganda. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

There was a frantic search for the players on Friday and Saturday and when they could not be traced, the rest had to be on their way back home.

The Red Sea Boys finished second in Kampala after losing 3-0 to Uganda in the final. They made it for their first ever final after beating defending champions Harambee Stars 4-1 in the semis.

There have always been cases of Eritrean players escaping whenever they play tournaments outside their country. It was the same case in 2012 when the tournament was also held in Kampala, something that led to their ban from the tournament.

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They were reinstated this year, but seems old habits die hard.

Outgoing CECAFA Secretary General Nicholas Musonye was non-committal on the issue.

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