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AFCON 2024: Gambia Football Team Narrow Escape Flight Pass Out

Gambia national football team, known as the Scorpions, narrowly averted a potential tragedy as their chartered flight en route to the Africa Cup of Nations made an emergency landing due to a sudden loss of oxygen.

The ordeal unfolded on Wednesday when the aircraft, operated by Air Cote d’Ivoire, took off for Ivory Coast. After merely nine minutes in the air, the crew detected technical problems, prompting the decision to return to Banjul, Gambia’s capital, the Gambia Sports Federation reported in a Facebook press release.

“Preliminary investigations indicated a loss of cabin pressure and oxygen,” stated the federation, highlighting the gravity of the situation.

Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet, who was on board, revealed the team’s brush with disaster. “We all suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning. Some players did not wake up immediately after landing,” he shared with Belgian broadcaster VRT, underscoring the severity of the incident.

Gambian player Saidy Janko took to Instagram to describe the distressing moments of the flight. “The lack of oxygen left people with severe headaches and extreme dizziness, with people falling asleep within minutes of takeoff,” he expressed.

The airline, Air Cote d’Ivoire, is actively assessing the situation to identify the cause of the oxygen shortage and cabin pressure issues.

The incident has raised concerns as the Africa Cup of Nations is set to kick off in Ivory Coast on Saturday. 

The tournament’s 34th edition, originally scheduled for June and July last year, was postponed to avoid Ivory Coast’s tropical rainy season.

Despite the unnerving experience, the Gambia national football team is determined to proceed with their participation. The federation announced that the team is expected to take another flight to Ivory Coast on Thursday afternoon and then travel to Yamoussoukro, where some matches are scheduled to take place.

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