Almost all players of the Eritrean national football team, which has been taking part in the CECAFA regional football competition, have absconded in Uganda to seek asylum.
17 players and one team doctor have “vanished” leaving behind only the head coach Ngash Teklit and his assistant; trainer of the goalkeeper, Brhane; two players and two accompanying officials.
It has become the norm for Eritrean players not to return home after a tournament and as a result the Eritrean government had started forcing team players to pay a 100,000 nakfa surety before traveling abroad.
Four players of Red Sea FC defected after a CAF Champions League 2006 match in Nairobi, Kenya, and up to 12 members of the national side after the 2007 CECAFA Cup in Tanzania.
Another six players sought asylum in Angola in March 2007 after a game in the qualification Group 6 for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations. Three more players from the national team sought asylum in Sudan.
Eritrea withdrew from the 2008 CECAFA Cup, and from the common qualifying tournament shared by the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the 2010 African Cup of Nations; Eritrea returned to the 2009 CECAFA Cup in Nairobi with a young squad that was assembled with just 12 days’ training.
In Group B, they gained a surprise draw with Zimbabwe, lost narrowly to Rwanda, and beat Somalia 3–1. However, they were easily beaten 4–0 in the quarter-finals by Tanzania and as a result twelve squad members failed to report for the return flight, and sought the assistance of the Refugee Consortium of Kenya.
They are believed to be in hiding in Eastleigh, an eastern suburb of Nairobi home to many immigrants.
Nicholas Musonye, the secretary-general of CECAFA, feared that the government might react by refusing to let the team travel abroad in future. The twelve players were later granted interim asylum by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kenya.
Eleven of these players have since travelled to Adelaide in Australia with two of them, Samuel Ghebrehiwet and Ambes Sium, signing for Gold Coast United in the A-League in August, 2011.