Gambia's harrowing flight ordeal ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

Gambia's harrowing flight ordeal ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

In a chilling prelude to the AFCON, Gambia, led by coach Tom Saintfiet, faced a life-threatening situation during their journey to the Ivory Coast.

The harrowing incident unfolded when their plane, en route from Banjul to Yamoussoukro, made an emergency landing due to a critical lack of oxygen inside the aircraft.

Coach Saintfiet revealed the gravity of the situation to Reuters, expressing concerns for their lives. "Luckily for us, the pilot recognized the problem and, after nine minutes in the air, turned around to land again. We all fell asleep," he recounted, highlighting the perilous nature of the emergency.

Gambia's fullback, Saidy Janko, who currently represents Swiss champions Young Boys, provided a detailed account of the distressing experience on Instagram. "The inhumane heat mixed with the occurring lack of oxygen left many people with strong headaches and extreme dizziness," he explained, emphasizing the severity of the conditions on the flight.

Janko's description depicted the escalating crisis during the journey, with passengers succumbing to the adverse conditions. He credited the pilot's quick decision to initiate an emergency landing back in Banjul for averting potentially catastrophic consequences.

Preliminary investigations by the Gambia Football Federation pointed to a loss of cabin pressure and oxygen, prompting further examination by the technical team of the flight's operating company, Air Cote d'Ivoire. While Air Cote d'Ivoire and the Confederation of African Football have not yet commented on the incident, concerns about the safety of air travel for sports teams have been raised.

As the Gambian players continued to grapple with nausea and headaches, the team are set to depart at 16h00 local time, just days before their opening Group C clash against defending champions Senegal in Yamoussoukro. The incident has sparked discussions about the need for stringent safety measures in air travel for sports teams, underscoring the gravity of the situation faced by Gambia's national football squad.

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