Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wasn’t part of Gabon’s squad to face South Sudan on Tuesday, citing a ‘backache’ after an internal dispute with his country’s federation.
This week, Gabon travelled to South Sudan for their fourth AFCON qualifier, winning the match 1-0. However, they had to play the match without star striker Aubameyang, after the Arsenal man refused to travel to the country with them.
The trouble began with the plane chartered by the National Fund for Sport Development to make the trip to South Sudan.
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 led 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 travelling 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.