Two South African football club officials who have been held in Libya for more than two weeks over unpaid bills will not be allowed to travel home until the debt is settled by Premier Division side Marumo Gallants, officials said.
Gallants team manager Rufus Matsena and physiotherapist Dina Dhlomo were kept back in Libya after the club failed to settle their hotel bill and other expenses incurred when they travelled for an African Confederation Cup tie in Benghazi on March 19.
They were not allowed to leave the hotel while the club still owed the establishment money, club officials told Reuters.
In a statement on Monday, Gallants said they were negotiating a settlement over what they termed a “financial dispute” while football officials told Reuters that the South African government had stepped in to try and settle the affair.
“Marumo Gallants management are in contact with the two employees, who have confirmed that they are safe and waiting for the matter to be settled,” the club said on Monday.
Gallants are struggling at the bottom of the league in South Africa but confounded expectation by qualifying for the group stage of the Confederation Cup and then going on to win their group.
The travel costs to matches in Algeria, Libya and Zambia left the club short of cash and they were given help by provincial authorities this weekend to cover the expenses of staging their last group game in the competition, which was hosted in Soweto, Johannesburg on Sunday, officials said.
The trip to Libya last month was described as a “nightmare” by the club’s English coach Dylan Kerr, including three days holed up in transit in Istanbul while waiting for onward tickets to Libya to be bought.
They eventually flew to Benghazi on the day of the match, but arrived after the scheduled kickoff time. That was pushed back by three hours and the team went straight from the airport to the stadium where they lost 4-1. They arrived without their kit and had to get a new strip to play in.
Their hosts Al-Akhdar were not informed of the late arrival of their opponents, nor the decision by the Confederation of African Football to postpone the kickoff time. They arrived at the stadium to find no referee, no officials and no opponent.
Kerr told Reuters he had been tremendously proud of the resilience shown by his players amid all the adversity.