African champion Algeria has hit out at fellow finalist Gambia after the cancellation of a planned friendly between the two countries ahead of next weekend’s kick off of the Africa Cup of Nations finals.
A tersely worded statement from the Algerian Football Federation accused Gambia of calling off the game, scheduled for Saturday in Doha, Qatar, for spurious reasons and said it would demand financial compensation.
But the Gambia Football Federation said 16 of its 28-man squad players were unavailable, including all of its goalkeepers.
“Because we do not have a goalkeeper, we are forced to call off our matches against Algeria and Syria,” Gambia coach Tom Saintfiet said.
“We have had so many unpredictable situations making it very difficult to prepare for the Cup of Natins that we’re not happy with, but no one is blamed.”
He did not give reasons for the players’ absence but there have been COVID-19 infections among all African teams preparing in the Middle East ahead of the tournament in Cameroon, while other Gambian players have weekend club commitments in Europe.
Algeria’s statement suggested Gambia could have made more of an effort to fly in reserve goalkeepers so that the warm-up match could go ahead.
“The Gambian side decided unilaterally and a few hours before the match to cancel the game on the pretext that they were missing a goalkeeper!” said the federation.
“The Algerian Football Federation deplores this attitude which shows a great lack of professionalism and respect towards those who have put everything in place for the success of this preparation match.”
Algeria said it too had problems with two goalkeepers unavailable on Saturday but had flown in a back-up for the match.
“Also, the offhand reaction of the Gambia coach, who did not hesitate to make announcement even before the official cancellation decision was made, is also an inelegant act,” the Algerian federation continued.
“The Algerian Football Federation will assert its rights with regard to the costs incurred, just as it will take the necessary steps to denounce the derogatory attitude of the Gambian side.”
Algeria will play a friendly against Ghana in Qatar on Wednesday before heading to Cameroon to defend their crown.
Their first game at the tournament is a Group E clash against Sierra Leone on January 11.
Gambia, in its first appearance at the finals, begins its Group F campaign against Mauritania on January 12.