Five players of Eritrea’s U-20 team have disappeared from their Hotel in Jinja ahead of the semi-finals of the on-going Cecafa U-20 Challenge Cup.
Eritrea will face Kenya’s Raising Stars in one of the semi-final games at the Fufa technical Center today, while Tanzania battle Sudan in the other match in Gulu.
The players who have vanished from the team hotel include; Hermon Fessehaye Yohannes, Mewael Tesfai Yosief, Simon Asmelash Mekonen, Deyben Gbtsawi Hintseab and first choice goalkeeper Girmay Hanibal.
Aimable Habimana, the Chairperson of Organising Committee for the Council of East and Central African Football Associations (Cecafa) confirmed the disappearance of the players on Tuesday.
“The five players are missing at the Speke Apartments. We have decided to beef-up security around their hotel and the team so that we end the tournament on a good note,” added Habimana.
During the team training for the Eritrean team at the Fufa Technical Center on Tuesday only 14 players were available.
When asked, the team coach Haile Efrem Alemseghed said some of his players are sick.
However, the team has a history of disappearing when out for sporting engagements.
In 2012, eighteen members of the Eritrean team taking part in the 2012 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup have vanished from Sky Hotel in Naalya, Kampala where they were residing.
In 2011 during a Cecafa event in Tanzania 13 Eritrean players vanished and later requested for asylum.
Also in 2010, during the Cecafa tournament in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 13 Eritrean players disappeared and defected. Several of those players have since ended up in Houston, Texas under a US refugee resettlement program. The same year, Britain granted six runners political asylum after they contacted Home Office representatives during a cross country championship meet in Edinburgh, Scotland.
In December 2009, the entire Eritrean national team went missing after failing to board a plane to go home after their last Cecafa match in Nairobi, Kenya. Only the squad’s coach and one other official arrived back in Eritrea after the team was knocked out in the quarter finals. Twelve members of the national team sought asylum in Kenya in 2009.
In 2006, four footballers with the Eritrean Red Sea Club went missing in Nairobi after an African Champions League game.
Eritrean government rules state that any athlete competing abroad must lodge a bond of several thousand pounds before leaving the country to guarantee their return.