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African qualifier re-scheduled after COVID-19 test dispute

March 31, 2021 GMT

CAIRO (AP) — An African Cup of Nations qualifying match between Sierra Leone and Benin has been postponed until June, the Confederation of African Football said Wednesday, after it was called off this week because of a dispute over positive COVID-19 tests.

The game will decide the final team to qualify for the African Cup in Cameroon next year.

It was meant to be played Tuesday — the last day of qualifiers — but the visiting Benin team refused to take the field when five of its players were barred from playing after Sierra Leone authorities announced on the day of the game that they had tested positive for COVID-19. Benin disputed the validity of the tests, claiming it was a ruse to put them at a disadvantage for the decisive qualifier.

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The team refused to get off the bus after arriving at the stadium in Freetown and the game was ultimately called off two hours after the scheduled kickoff time.

Sierra Leone needs to win to qualify for the African Cup for the first time in 25 years, while a draw would be enough to send Benin through.

CAF said re-scheduling the game for the next FIFA international window was “the better course of action.”

Also, the result of Tuesday’s qualifier between Ivory Coast and Ethiopia will stand despite it being stopped around 10 minutes early when the referee collapsed and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher.

Ivory Coast was leading 3-1 when Ghanaian referee Charles Bulu became disorientated and slumped to the ground as players tried to help him to the sidelines.

The fourth official for the game was Ivorian and so couldn’t officiate and the game was ended without any more play. Both teams have qualified for the African Cup anyway.

Bulu was in good health and recovering in a hospital on Wednesday, Ivory Coast media reported.

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