ABIDJAN, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- The phenomena of African athletes fleeing during international competitions has caught the attention of observers who consider this a new way of illegal immigration by some sportsmen from the continent.
Just like other continents, African countries have continued to honor invites to participate in numerous international competitions but unfortunately, many African athletes continue to flee despite measures that have been put in place.
"A STRING" OF DISAPPEARANCES
In 1996, almost the entire basket ball team of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) took advantage of their participation in the Atlanta Olympic Games to remain in the U.S.
During the Commonwealth Games held in Manchester in 2011, the Sierra Leonian delegation returned home with only 10 members of its 30-member delegation, with the rest missing.
During the 2012 Olympic Games in London, seven Cameroonian athletes, three members of the Cote d'Ivoire delegation, Cote d'Ivoire wrestling team's coach as well as other African athletes went missing.
The phenomenon was repeated most recently during the Francophonie Games held in the French city of Nice, which ended on Sunday.
A total of 10 Cote d'Ivoire representatives at the games who included mostly the female basketball players vanished after the games.
The Congolese players, including cyclists were also reported missing.
The way the fugitives are operating continue to raise several questions in different quarters.
"The heads of the delegations had confiscated the passports of the athletes but despite all this, they managed to escape. They therefore risk living without the valid papers," said Joachim Ngoran, an official of a school football team in Yopougon district in Abidjan.
Laurent Benie, a Cote d'Ivoire veteran sports journalist, noted that the fugitives had a well established plan. "They could have spoken with the clubs that require their services so that they later organize the valid papers for them," he said.
FLEE FOR THE BETTER
According to Gregoire Obou, a sociology lecturer in a private university in Abidjan, several athletes always have hidden intentions before they leave.
"They know that a chance to go to Europe, Asia or America is an opportunity to have a good life. And due to pressure from parents or friends, they decide to stay in those countries so that they could earn a good life," Obou said.
"Generally, the working conditions there are far much better and the chances of earning more money are high," he added.
Several athletes register to participate in international competitions just like others, without revealing their secret plans, and then later we discover they had these shameful intentions after they have escaped, he said.
There have been several condemnations for this practice. After the Francophonie games in Nice, the Cote d'Ivoire sports minister condemned the habit of escaping and proposed some solutions.
"They were using sports to seek for a good life. They believe that the conditions here will enable them to earn a good living. Nevertheless, we strongly condemn the act of fleeing because they had come to represent their country. The games had not even ended yet they had already fled," he told journalists, noting that his ministry will continue to sensitize the athletes.
The minister equally urged international sports federations to set up good training facilities of their different games in Africa.
"The African continent which produces good athletes does not get any resources to pay athletes with their coaches," he noted, insisting that "the fleeing of athletes was one of the consequences of the failure to give Africa enough resources.
The chairman of the Association of the National Olympic Committees in Africa (ACNOA), Lassana Palenfo who is a Cote d'Ivoire national, gave the same view, proposing the construction of sports centers in Africa to limit the incidents of athletes fleeing.