Football is the most famous sport in Gabon but the country’s star players are far from being treated like royalty. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, salaries went unpaid, contracts were unfulfilled and medical examinations were overlooked.
“The last two years before Covid, the situation was already difficult. That is, we were playing a seven or eight-month championship, but we were basically only getting one to two months’ salary. So, that was it. We played sports, we played the championship because we loved soccer, but now it’s complicated because they make us believe that with Covid we can’t do anything,” Chico Sassou, Gabonese footballer said.
“For more than a year now, the players have been without activities because the government had already them and when we remember that even before the Covid-19 crisis the situation of the footballers was already very complicated, the majority were in extremely precarious situations. You see that with the crisis that has taken hold, and the lack of activity because they can no longer practise their profession, it is really chaos,” Remi Ebanega, President of the Association of Professional Footballers of Gabon (ANFPG) told the press.
Some have resorted to new ways to survive including hard labour. Gamamba Souleimane is a former footballer who has turned to house-painting to make a living after months of frustration from the sport
“Guys who are disrespected, who can’t eat, who can’t wear clothes? What can I feel if not regret? I fear for their future because all they have is soccer,” Souleimane revealed.
Now after a year of the global pandemic, some are receiving ‘survival packages’ of food and others are giving up on football altogether in order to make enough to buy food and clothes.