The Gambia national team coach Tom Saintfelt has asked that their 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifying matches against Gabon be postponed as seven of his players have been barred from leaving Italy.
The seven have been marooned in various Italian cities as the authorities combat the fast-spreading coronavirus which has hit Italy badly. Italy has the highest infection rate of the deadly virus outside of China.
The virus which originated in Chinese city of Wuhan has spread to over 115 countries infecting at least 118,000 and leaving almost 4,600 dead.
Italy has 10,149 confirmed cases with 631 deaths reported as of March 10. The country has announced a total lockdown restricting movement and banning nonessential flights in and out of its major international and domestic airports.
Saintfelt, therefore, will be without seven players who ply their trade in Italy. The seven are Sheikh Sibi (Virtus Verona), Omar Colley (captain; Sampdoria), Yusupha Bobb (Lecco), Ebrima Colley (Atalanta), Lamin Jallow (Salernitana), Musa Juwara (FC Bologna) and Musa Barrow (FC Bologna).
"We cannot prepare for the qualifiers when certain countries will not be able to use their best players, not because of injuries but because of an international problem", he told BBC.
The Belgian tactician noted that it wasn't only an Italian problem but countries such as France and Belgium are recording high number of new infections.
"We are talking about Italy today, but there are other European countries, such as France or Belgium, where the coronavirus is progressing quickly. I think it would be more reasonable for CAF to follow the recommendations of the FIFA, as Asia has done, and postpone the matches.”
He has suggested that the matches be scheduled in June and September.
The Gambia is set to host Gabon on March 26 before travelling to Libreville three days later. They are currently joint leaders of Group D with Gabon on four points while DR Congo is third with two points and Angola are yet to pick a point.