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Plane Carrying Gambia Squad To AFCON Makes Emergency Landing After Oxygen Supply Fails

Several Gambia players lost consciousness after the oxygen supply failed on the plane taking them to the Africa Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast on Wednesday.

Many other players experienced symptoms such as severe headaches and extreme dizziness before the plane made an emergency landing.

The plane had been chartered to fly from Banjul to Abidjan in around two and a half hours but the pilot decided to return to Banjul just nine minutes into the journey.

Gambia national team coach Tom Saintfiet told Nieuwsblad: "We could all have been dead.

"We all fell asleep quickly. Me, too. I had short dreams about how my life was done. Really and truly. After nine minutes the pilot decided to return because there was no oxygen supply.

"Some players did not wake up [until] immediately after landing. We almost got carbon monoxide poisoning. Another half hour of flying and we would all have been dead."

Former Manchester United right-back Saidy Janko was among the Gambia players on the plane.

Janko, who now plays his club football for Young Boys in Switzerland, criticized the Gambia Football Federation in the caption of a video post on Instagram, calling the governing body's organization "unacceptable".

Janko added: "After traveling 32 hours in total from Saudi Arabia (Training Camp) to The Gambia with long layovers in Istanbul and Casablanca, we were supposed to fly from Gambia to Ivory Coast for the AFCON today.

"As soon as we entered the small plane that was hired to fly us, we noticed the immense heat that left us dripping in sweat. It was assured to us by the crew that the air condition would start once we are in the sky.

"The inhumane heat mixed with the occurring lack of oxygen left many people with strong headaches and extreme dizziness. Furthermore, people started falling deeply asleep minutes after entering the aircraft/takeoff.

"Whilst in the air, the situation got worse, leaving the pilot with no other option than initiating an emergency landing back in Banjul airport nine minutes after takeoff. Which happened successfully.

"If it wasn't for this, the consequences could have been a lot worse!!!"

The Gambia Football Federation said in a statement: "The Gambia Football Federation (GFF) regrets to inform the general public that the Chartered Flight carrying the Scorpions to the African cup of Nations has returned to Banjul due to technical problems.

"The flight was nine minutes airborne when the crew realized and immediately requested to return to Banjul.

"Upon landing, preliminary investigations indicated that there was loss of cabin pressure and oxygen.

"However, the technical team of the operating company of the flight, Air Cote d'Ivoire, is further assessing the situation to establish what caused the lack of oxygen and cabin pressure.

"In this regard, the team, including the players and staff are now on their way to base at the Ocean Bay Hotel as they await further instructions. It is important to note that every member of the delegation is safe and in sound health.

"The public will be kept informed with regard to any development on the matter. We apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused as we seek to find a quick solution for the team to travel to Ivory Coast as soon as possible."

Gambia's first game at AFCON is scheduled to take place on Monday against reigning champions Senegal.

The other teams in Gambia's group are Guinea and Cameroon.