Sierra Leone-Benin AFCON qualifier postponed over Covid-19 tests row

AFP , Monday 14 Jun 2021

A match between Sierra Leone and Benin in Guinea on Monday to decide the final qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations was postponed 24 hours after a row over coronavirus tests.

The game, which will decide the last place in the finals, has been rescheduled for Tuesday, a Confederation of African Football (CAF) official in Guinea and a local football official, neither of whom wished to be named, both told AFP.

Eve-of-match tests cleared every player from both teams to play, but just before the kickoff Sierra Leone were informed that six reserves had tested positive and were barred.

The tests on Sunday were conducted by CAF officials, who did not immediately explain the change from negative to positive status of the six.

Sierra Leone refused to accept the new results and more than two hours after the scheduled kickoff time CAF decided to delay the fixture by one day.

It was the second time the final-round Group L fixture had been postponed. Benin refused to play in Sierra Leone last March after five of their stars tested positive.

All five Beninese tested negative for coronavirus before travelling to Freetown and when they returned to their foreign clubs.

Benin and Sierra Leone are seeking the 24th and final place at the showpiece of African football in Cameroon from January 9, 2022.

To qualify, Sierra Leone must win 1-0 or by at least two goals if they concede one. Otherwise, Benin will secure a second successive appearance.

The Sierra Leone home fixture was moved to Nongo near the Guinean capital, Conakry, because the national stadium in Freetown is no longer up to international standards.

Among the 23 countries who have qualified for the Cup of Nations are defending champions Algeria, hosts Cameroon and record seven-time title-holders Egypt.

Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia and Zimbabwe have also secured places.

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