Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who admitted he was considering international retirement, may have had the decision taken out of his hands after the Gabon national team was dissolved for not being patriotic enough.
Gabon failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations after their recent 1-1 draw with Burundi that saw Auba return to the national team set-up. They finished third in their group.
“We are going to rebuild the national team on a new basis by setting aside everyone who is characterised by a lack of envy, patriotism, and who have put more emphasis on financial resources, the nation and the spirit,” Alan Bilie explained, Gabon’s Minister for Sport explained.
Before accepting the call of his nation for this round of fixtures, Aubameyang admitted he was considering retirement. As he eventually turned up, most assumed he had decided to stick with it.
Speaking on the French TV show Talents d’Afrique, Aubameyang admitted he was considering retiring from international football after snubbing an international call-up back in October and being “extremely disappointed by the behaviour of certain people”.
“I am thinking hard about retiring from international football,” he said.
“I am honestly asking myself that question. Sadly I have come to this point, and I am going to make a decision.
“It could come before or after our next game against Burundi.
“Normally I would go if called up, but I am hesitating because I want to make matters improve.
“I would love Gabon to qualify for the African Nations Cup finals. But if things don’t improve I don’t see the point of going.
“I am waiting for changes to be made. We always end up in the same situation on the eve of matches, asking questions we shouldn’t need to ask.
“I want football to become more professional in Gabon. It is what the players deserve. That is what is lacking, and it is the reason why I sometimes don’t turn up to play.
“I am extremely disappointed by the behaviour of certain people – both in the Gabon FA and higher up.”
In October, Aubameyang withdrew from the Gabon squad citing ‘backache’ although it followed a reported ‘internal dispute’ with the Gabon Football Federation.
The trouble began with the plane chartered by the National Fund for Sport Development to make the trip to South Sudan, something Auba spoke about again during this interview when he said, “We cannot fly six hours, travelling like sardines in a box.”
At the time the players considered the plane unsuitable for travel, feeling that it didn’t “guarantee all necessary travel amenities for athletes in competition“. It would have also added an extra two hours to their flight time when compared to a larger aircraft and was the same plane the squad had rejected the year before 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. Unfortunately, by that point, it was too late to win the striker round. He’d already missed training, claiming the aforementioned ‘backache’ and refused to join the squad travelling to Juba.
The 29-year-old then “vowed not to return [to the Gabon national team] whilst the administrator of the National Fund to Sport Development is still in office”.
Aubameyang has scored 20 goals in his 52 Gabon appearances but has only played in four of their last 12 games, not even making the squad for the others. He scored one and assisted one in those four games.
His international career started with an unbroken sequence of 18 games, but in the last 51 he has been absent from the squad 22 times with illness/injury cited for just two of those misses.
In September, Aubameyang also slated the Gabon Federation over the decision to name his father as manager while it was reported that some Gabon fans are unhappy with him being captain of their country.