Confusion as cardiac problem sidelines top footballer
$75 million footballer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been ruled out of action by bosses at the Covid-hit Africa Cup of Nations after he was diagnosed with cardiac lesions – with his manager claiming the player's father intervened.
Gabon forward Aubameyang has become the latest footballer to suffer a heart scare, with the Confederation of African Football medical commission detecting the issue.
Two of Aubameyang's teammates, Axel Meye and Mario Lemina, have also been sidelined following the commission's examinations.
Announcing the team captain's condition, the Gabonese Football Federation said that confederation chiefs "did not want to take any risks."
- health issues with Malaria and COVID (heart)- family problems- on field issues with captaincyPlayers are humans after all and that's a lot of problems to deal with! Stay strong and speedy recovery @auba ! pic.twitter.com/C14Cpk0tgv— AfcVIP⁴⁹ (@VipArsenal) January 14, 2022
Aubameyang was pictured on a night out in Dubai with Nice midfielder Lemina shortly before the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), which has been beset by questions around whether players from leagues across the world should be traveling to Cameroon at a time when the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly.
The 32-year-old, who commanded the colossal transfer fee when he joined the Gunners from German giants Borussia Dortmund in 2018, tested positive for Covid when he arrived to join the Gabon squad.
Arsenal recently removed the club captaincy from Aubameyang and have previously fined him for missing a Covid test, with manager Mikel Arteta appearing to be unimpressed with the former Premier League top scorer's attitude.
🇬🇦 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang & the Gabon camp partying in Dubai ahead of AFCON.pic.twitter.com/O3dLrV6JBw— African Insider #AFCON2021 🏆 (@African_Insider) January 5, 2022
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has tested positive for COVID-19 upon arriving for the Africa Cup of Nations after a video emerged of him partying in Dubai. pic.twitter.com/unVCoFtNw3— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 6, 2022
The club also said Aubameyang had been "reminded of his responsibilities" after footage emerged of him risking a breach of tight Covid guidelines by having a tattoo in December 2021.
Gabon boss Patrice Neveu seemed confused by Aubameyang's enforced absence from the game against Ghana, which his side earned a point from courtesy of an 88th-minute equalizer in the 1-1 draw.
"In the readings, it's clear that Aubameyang has no cardiac problems," Neveu told ESPN, adding that his talisman and Lemina had returned negative PCR tests.
🗣 "If he does anything he shouldn't be doing, there's going to be consequences." Mikel Arteta speaking about reports of Aubameyang breaking the protocols for a tattoo pic.twitter.com/we0YUWI2HE— Football Daily (@footballdaily) February 18, 2021
"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 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 phonecall with me, and they told me not to play them.
"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."
Almost every team at AFCON has been depleted by positive Covid tests during the build-up and opening games of the tournament, and there has also been controversy around the application of testing.
There have been numerous troubling incidents of footballers and fans suffering heart problems in recent months, with several English Premier League matches stopped for medical emergencies in the stands.
Premier League legend Sergio Aguero was forced to retire after a cardiac issue forced him out of action for Barcelona, and Mali defender Ousmane Coulibaly suffered a heart attack during a game in Qatar in January 2022.
AFCON continues until February 6 2022, having been postponed from June and July 2021 because of the pandemic.