Gabon hope Aubameyang will play at Afcon despite detecting cardiac lesions

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Gabon hope to be able to field Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on Tuesday when they play their last group game at the Africa Cup of Nations, despite their captain’s exclusion from Friday’s 1-1 draw against Ghana in Yaoundé and the subsequent diagnosis of cardiac lesions after a post-Covid medical examination.

Aubameyang missed Gabon’s opening game win against Comoros on Monday after testing positive for Covid-19 on arrival in Cameroon for the tournament and being placed in quarantine along with his teammate Mario Lemina. Both rejoined the squad after almost a week isolating, and trained on the eve of their second Group C encounter against Ghana. But the Confederation of African Football (Caf) ordered Gabon not to use them in that match after cardiac lesions were detected in a medical check.

“They passed the PCR tests, which were negative, and then they did the second battery of medical tests and it seems that both of them have a problem,” explained the Gabon coach, Patrice Neveu. “I was on the phone with the team doctor and Caf and they told me not to play them, because their health must take precedence. The virus has left some residue on the MRI tests that they underwent. Aubameyang and Lemina don’t have heart problems, but Covid may have left some waste, so it was wise not to play and we followed the protocols.”

Neveu said he was itching to field the pair against Morocco in Yaoundé on Tuesday, where Gabon could yet snatch top place in the group. “There are four days before the next match and I hope to have them back because we really need them. Fortunately, Caf allowed us to take a squad of 28 to the tournament because otherwise I would have been unable to cope. This virus is tenacious. I myself had it but it was gone in two days.”

Gabon have also had to do without Axel Méyé, Gilchrist Nguema, Sidney Obissa and Lloyd Palun, who also tested positive. Gabon may not finish in the top two in their group, but four points from their opening two matches should be enough for them to advance to the next stage as one of the four best third-placed teams in the group stage.