Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has tested positive for coronavirus just days before the start of the African Cup of Nations, according to multiple reports, putting his participation for at least some of the tournament in doubt.
Aubameyang has suffered a turbulent few weeks, losing his place in the Arsenal team after being dropped by manager Mikel Arteta due to a disciplinary breach.
He was also stripped of the captaincy by Mikel Arteta and, having played little football recently, was hoping to make a big impact at AFCON, which gets underway on January 9, when hosts Cameroon face Burkina Faso. Aubameyang has been named in a significant number of transfer rumors as a result of his Arsenal situation, and the AFCON tournament would present a perfect opportunity to show other clubs what he is still capable of.
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Aubameyang’s night out in Dubai
Just prior to Aubameyang’s positive COVID-19 test, it surfaced that the Gabon international spent a night out in Dubai en route to meeting up with his AFCON teammates.
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Video emerged of the 30-year-old partying unmasked with international teammates, including Nice midfielder Mario Lemina, who has also reportedly tested positive. The video surfaced on the Snapchat story of user @walter_sk.
Gabon’s preparation for the tournament hasn’t exactly been low key. The players first refused to board the plane to the tournament until they were paid by the federation.
And then Lemina, Auba and the squad were filmed partying in Dubai. https://t.co/NeVLpJAR4C
— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) January 6, 2022
The night out arose after Aubameyang was given an early release for the tournament by Arsenal following the decision that he wouldn’t play against Manchester City in the final match before clubs were forced to release AFCON players. Arsenal’s other AFCON players Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pepe, and Mohamed Elneny were all released following the match.
Which games could Aubameyang miss?
AFCON 2022 begins on Sunday, with Gabon playing their opening group-stage fixture against Comoros the day after, on January 10. They play Ghana four days later before concluding their pool-stage matches against Morocco on January 18, which would also be inside the theoretical 10-day window for Aubameyang to exit self-isolation.
Should Aubameyang be forced into isolation due to testing positive, he would be doubtful to feature in at least the first game, while it is unclear at this stage if he would then be unable to participate in the rest of the competition. The former Dortmund striker has already missed games for Arsenal in the first half of the 2021-22 campaign due to testing positive for COVID-19.
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It’s also unclear who else in the squad has tested positive, with more players in contact with Aubameyang and Lemina both during the Dubai party and in images released of their travel. Reports state the duo of Aubameyang and Lemina did not test positive until arriving in Cameroon for the tournament.
Gabon’s final group stage match comes against Morocco. The country is +6500 to win the tournament, and +800 to exit the group, with Morocco and Ghana heavily favored to qualify for the knockout stage (odds via DraftKings).
Gabon arrive in Cameroon
The Gabonese FA posted photos of the squad arriving in Cameroon on January 6, before news of Aubameyang’s positive test came to light.
The Gunners forward can be seen in one of the images, sitting around other Gabon teammates all wearing masks, although it’s unclear if he is now in isolation.