Gabon coach Patrice Neveu has explained Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s absence from his country’s 1-1 draw with Ghana and said he hopes to have the striker available for their final AFCON group game with Morocco.
Having tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival in Cameroon, the Arsenal striker had to sit out Gabon’s opening match – a 1-0 win over Comoros – but, having taken part in training this week, was expected to feature last night.
As it turned out, pre-match tests showed the virus hadn’t completely left Auba’s system forcing Neveu into the difficult decision to leave the player in the team hotel. Reports subsequently surfaced claiming our man, and teammate Mario Lemina, were suffering from heart issues.
Speaking to ESPN, Neveu clarified the situation: “In the readings, it’s clear that Aubameyang has no cardiac problems. He [and Lemina] passed PCR tests and they were negative.
“They then did the second lot of exams, cardiac tests, and it seemed as though the pair of them had problems.
“It appears as though the virus has left a residue, it’s possible that the illness has left an impact, and two hours before the match, the team doctor and the doctor of CAF were on a phone call with me, and they told me not to play them.”
He added: “In order to protect my players, I took the decision to not play them. It’s my responsibility, so we chose not to play them.
“We’ll see what happens now, but that was my responsibility. When we got the news, Pierre-Emerick wanted to play, he left his room with his belongings, but the CAF doctor told me again, so his father had to intervene. I know it hurt him.”
On whether Aubameyang is in contention for the next game, Neveu said: “It can be possible that the illness has left an impact, but we’ll do the MRIs, we’ll see what happens and we’ll do what’s necessary.
“We’ll do the necessary and follow the protocol. We have four days [until the match against Morocco], and I hope to get them back because we need them.”
Aside from a Gabon friendly match, played in Dubai, Auba hasn’t kicked a ball in anger since Arsenal’s defeat to Everton on 19 December. It’s obviously been a very difficult spell for him but hopefully, things turn around for him.