A 10-0 aggregate loss paled in significance for the Sao Tome and Principe’s Under-17 Women’s team, after the side had been forced to remain in Yaounde, Cameroon, for an entire week due to the spread of Covid-19.
Sao Tome fell to the heavy two-leg defeat against hosts Cameroon in their Under-17 Women’s qualifier on March 14, but as the team was about to leave border restrictions fell in place in Equatorial Guinea where they were due to fly.
It meant the side could not board their flight in Cameroon. Later, Cameroon would close its borders as well, leaving the Sao Tome teenagers stranded in a foreign land as the spread of coronavirus intensified.
Fortunately, the side were finally able to return to Sao Tome on March 21.
“The U17 national team of Sao Tomé and Principe finally left Yaounde this afternoon for Sao-Tomé,” the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) announced via its Twitter account on Saturday afternoon.
“She [Sao Tome and Principe] had been stranded in Yaounde because of #COVID19 for a week. She thanks the government and the government for the support of Fecafoot and Fifa for this return.”
Fecafoot president Seidou Mbombo Njoya had told the BBC that his organisation would be responsible for Sao Tome while they are stuck in the country.
“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.
“It’s a pretty difficult situation for that team but we believe it can happen to anyone and now that the coronavirus is spreading panic in the world, we have to support one another.”
Njoya followed through on his promise to get the team home as soon as possible.
“These are very young girls and we must understand that most of them haven’t thought or had to deal with this sort of situation. It must be a traumatising situation for them being unable to return to their country,” Mbombo Njoya added.
“These are very difficult times and with the coronavirus wreaking havoc across the world, there’s no doubt these players will feel safer around their parents, friends and loved one.
“Most of them are students who’ve missed a week of studies and we feel very concerned about this because it could’ve been us in this situation.
“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.”
In partnership with ANA and Sports Leo