AFCON AFCON 2023: Gambia squad ‘could have died’ after plane aborted – Saintfiet

The Gambia coach Tom Saintfiet admits he feared that the travelling for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast “could have died” after their plane was forced to return to Banjul on Wednesday.

The Air Cote d’Ivoire flight carrying the Scorpion squad waa forced to turn around just minutes after leaving the Gambian capital Banjul owing to mechanical issues.

Speaking for the first time on the incident, Saintfiet told BBC Sport Africa: “The local crew said there was a problem with the air conditioning before we took off but that it would be all fine when we took off.

“After a few minutes, it was very hot in the plane. We all fell asleep because there was a lack of oxygen – some of the players couldn’t be woken up. The pilot noticed and we had to return.

“People got headaches and if the flight had gone on for another 30 minutes, the whole team would have died. The strange thing is that the oxygen masks didn’t come out – it’s good that the pilot realised that this was a deadly situation and so turned back but we are still in shock.”

Dennis Mabuka

Dennis Mabuka is a seasoned Kenyan journalist with 18 years of experience covering sports events. He is currently a sport content creator with

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