While the start of the Gabonese championship was announced for 14 May, it might not take place at all. This is the threat brandished by the professional footballers. They are demanding the payment of debts owed to their clubs by the Ministry of Sports, over three seasons. A sum equivalent to 1.4 billion CFA francs.
After a two-year hiatus, officially due to Covid, the Gabonese football championship will resume on 14 May. This is the date announced by the National Football League (Linaf), at least for the moment. Because after the hopeful notes raised by this announcement, the discontent has quickly resumed in the ranks of players. And for good reason, grouped within the National Association of Professional Footballers of Gabon (ANFPG), they were keen to point out that they are still waiting for the payment of their salaries over no less than three seasons. In total, the slated amounts to 1.4 billion CFA francs, or about 2.14 million euros. A sum that the Ministry of Sports must pay the clubs for the 2016-2017, 2017-2018 and 2019-2020 seasons.
Sleepless night in front of the ministry to protest
"The best way to respect these footballers abandoned for over two years is to urgently settle this debt before the resumption of National-Foot," argued the president of the ANFPG, Remy Ebanega. "This is their most fundamental right and I invite all footballers and former footballers concerned to stand together to assert their rights. And it is with this in mind that players went to the Gabonese Ministry of Sports to voice their anger and especially to claim their due. "We came to insist on our debt. Because without money there will be no resumption of the championship. The players are really exhausted and tired. Gabonese footballers have been suffering for two years," said one of them in a video shared on social networks by the association.
Nuit blanche des #footballeurs devant le @SportGOUVGA de Monsieur @FrankNguema. Pour le règlement de la dette due aux footballeurs saison 2016-2017, 2017-2018 et 2019-2020.@fegafoot_gabon@NationalFootGab@FIFProAfrica@FIFPRO@fifacom_fr pic.twitter.com/FDPh7ATfhk
— anfpg (@anfpg) March 17, 2022
"The worst crisis in African football", according to Fifpro Africa
Except that the players found the doors closed and were unable to meet the Gabonese Minister of Sport, Franck Nguema. They then decided to organize an all-nighter in front of the institution to keep up the pressure. Faced with their insistence, members of the minister's entourage agreed to receive them. "We were received by the Director of Cabinet. He underlined points that prove to us that the footballer is not respected," deplored one of the ANFPG members at the end of the meeting. "But we know that the president of the Republic has undoubtedly disbursed funds to ensure that football really comes back to life. Unfortunately, things are not done as such. They told us that the state always pays its debts. Now, the question is how to launch a championship without exams, without paying the debt?
It is therefore without a concrete answer that the players stayed up until the early hours of the morning in front of the ministry's gates. This situation has prompted Fifpro, the world union of professional footballers, as well as its African division, to deplore the situation, which has been described as "the worst crisis in African football". The union wonders "who will blow the whistle? This question remains unanswered for the time being, while the authorities in Gabon remain silent about the situation.