Burkina Faso have issued a formal letter of complaint to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) after they returned five positive COVID-19 antigen tests on the eve of their Africa Cup of Nations opener against hosts Cameroon.
Captain Bertrand Traore has called the situation as a “scandal” and demanded answers from CAF around the organisation of the testing regime, while the Burkina Faso Football Federation (FBF) have alleged mishandling of his side’s pre-match tests.
Head coach Kamou Malo as well as five players — Edmond Tapsoba, Oula Abass Traore, Soumaila Ouattara, Saidou Simpore and Aboubacar Dango — and three other officials all received positive test results on Saturday, and appear set to sit out in their tournament opener in Yaounde on Sunday.
The tournament’s coronavirus protocol states that teams must undergo PCR tests 48 hours conducted before each match, conducted by a medical team designated by African football’s governing body.
In a statement sent by the FBF to CAF on Saturday, which has been seen by ESPN, Burkinabe president Lazare Bansse said he believes there are “legitimate reasons to doubt the reliability of the results of tests which clearly target major players.
“We found serious anomalies in the sampling procedure and the late arrival time of technicians — around 10pm — after waking our players from sleep,” the statement read. “We also noted the arrival in our hotel of an unauthorised team that we turned away.
“A second team arrived without presenting any official identification documentation. Nevertheless, we accepted the collection of samples out of respect for CAF despite the obvious suspicions.”
The FBF president has called on CAF to re-do the team’s COVID-19 tests in an independent laboratory and in the presence of team doctors.
CAF are yet to respond to ESPN’s request for comment on the circumstances surrounding Friday’s testing and Burkina Faso’s request for another round of tests.
Aston Villa winger Traore has accused CAF of double standards after subjecting Burkina Faso to antigen tests on Friday evening, rather than the PCR tests that they should have received as per the tournament protocol.
“I believe this is scandal,” Traore told ESPN on Saturday.
“We cannot be told on the eve of the match that we have COVID-19 cases among the players when some of them are our best players.
“This is unacceptable. Why did they not conduct PCR tests instead? They should have told us this beforehand. The officials and the authorities really need to rethink this organisation so that we can be sure that players won’t be told 24 hours beforehand that they can’t play.”
Traore said that re-testing the players would be a short-term solution, and has called on CAF to explain the circumstances surrounding the testing confusion on Friday.
“We are obliged to continue playing the competition despite the pandemic, and right now there is a protocol that has been set up by almost all organisations, be it CAF or the Premier League,” he added.
“I’m not really in agreement with the protocol, but we want to know why there were two health teams that came to our hotel to carry out tests, why were the tests changed, why was it not a PCR test anymore?
“We trained for 10 days for this first game, we had difficulties before, but it can’t be that 24 hours beforehand, on the eve of the match, that you tell some of our players that they cannot play.”
Assistant coach Firmin Sanou, standing in for the isolating head coach Malo in Saturday’s news conference, said the uncertainty surrounding the status of five of his players has caused a selection headache.
“It’s not easy to prepare your team for the first match not knowing if they are ready, not knowing on the eve of the match if you can use four or five players,” Sanou said.
“You shouldn’t be having to reorganise or reorder your strategy on the eve of the match.”
Burkina Faso, who finished as runners-up at the 2013 Nations Cup and third place in 2017, are set to face Cape Verde in Yaounde in their second group game before meeting Ethiopia in Bafoussam on Jan. 17.