Local footballers in Gabon, the host nation of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, have threatened to strike over non-payment of salaries.
Chief among four main demands is the back payment of salaries dating from present day back to 2013.
President of the Gabonese Footballers’ Association, Remy Ebanega said “If our concerns are not met, we will tell the players not to start the championship (next month),”
The Gabonese league has yet to respond to their request.
The new season is set to start in early November, although only two rounds of matches have been confirmed so far.
Gabon is an oil-rich nation with one of Africa’s highest GDPs per capita.
The footballers’ demands have been sent to world governing body FIFA, the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Gabon’s Minister of Sport and, among others, the local FA.
Ebanega believes the majority of players, who say they are challenged by poor working conditions, breaches of contract and unfair dismissals, are in favour of a strike.
“I can’t say everyone is behind the move as some are hesitating, but we issued our statement because we know the majority agree,” explained the defender, who is currently based in France.
“We don’t want to get to the point of a strike. That is the last resort. The players need to be fully paid.
“They have not been paid since the beginning of last season. Collectively, they are owed a lot of money. The league and clubs should understand it’s players – fathers of families – who are suffering.”
The salary for a footballer in Gabon is roughly $500 per month.
Ebanega played for Gabon’s national team after rising up through the local league with US Bitam, before winning the African Under-23 championships in 2011.
“One player’s case touched me because his children were ashamed to say their father was a footballer at school. When he did say his dad was a footballer, the other children made fun of him. It hurts.”
“This problem exists because there is no control and leadership in the Gabon league,” said the 26-year-old, who has played for Auxerre and Bastia in France.
In January, Gabon is set to stage Nations Cup matches for the second time in five years after co-hosting the 2012 finals with Equatorial Guinea.
Next year’s finals kick off on 14 January, ending on 5 February.
Gabon, ranked 110th in the world (their lowest ranking in 12 years), have never been past the quarter-finals, which they achieved on home soil four years ago, and will meet Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Guinea-Bissau.
They open the finals, and Group A, when meeting tournament debutants Guinea-Bissau in the capital Libreville.