Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang did not come to Juba for the 2nd leg of the AFCON2019 against South Sudan (photo courtesy of Daily Express)
Arsenal fans at Juba Stadium on Tuesday (Photo by David Mono Danga)
By David Mono Danga
Hundreds of South Sudanese, mostly diehard Arsenal fans, poured to Juba Stadium on Tuesday with the hope of watching live the Arsenal’s most sensational striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
However, their hopes were dusted as news spread that the Panther’s forward would not feature in the match and wondered why.
According to the Daily Cannol Podcast, Aubameyang wasn’t part of Gabon’s squad to face South Sudan on Tuesday due to a sudden ‘backache’ after an internal dispute with his country’s federation.
Earlier this week, Gabon played the Bright Stars of South Sudan for their fourth AFCON qualifier, winning the match 1-0. But they had to play the match without star striker Aubameyang, after the Arsenal man refused to travel to the Juba with his team.
“The trouble began with the plane chartered by the National Fund for Sport Development to make the trip to South Sudan.” the Daily Cannol Podcast reported yesterday.
“The players considered the plane unsuitable for travel, feeling that it didn’t “guarantee all necessary travel amenities for athletes in competition”. It would’ve added an extra two hours to their flight time when compared to a larger aircraft, and was the same plane the squad had rejected a year ago in a similar dispute.”
Aubameyang lead protests by players and staff, which eventually resulted in a larger plane being made available to the national team on Sunday. Unfortunately, by that point, it was too late to win the striker over. He’d already missed training, claiming a ‘backache’, and refused to join the squad coming to Juba.
Further, the 29-year-old has reportedly now “vowed not to return [to the Gabon national team] whilst the administrator of the National Fund to Sport Development is still in office”. He’s reportedly now already back in London. This is far from the first dispute Aubameyang has had with the Gabon Football Federation.
Last month, the forward posted an angry Instagram statement slating their decision to name his father as national team coach without actually asking Aubameyang Sr. first. Manager Daniel Cousin admitted Aubameyang was considering international retirement after that incident.
It seems the Arsenal star gave his country another chance, captaining Gabon to a 3-0 victory last Friday. This latest debacle might have pushed him over the edge though.
We’ll have to wait and see how Aubameyang responds, and keep our fingers crossed that his ‘backache’ was just an excuse, not a genuine injury.