Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has tested positive for coronavirus just days before the start of the African Cup of Nations, according to multiple reports, casting doubt on his participation in at least part of the tournament.
Aubameyang has endured a turbulent few weeks, losing his place in the Arsenal squad after being sacked by manager Mikel Arteta due to a disciplinary offense.
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 kicks off on January 9, when host Cameroon take on Burkina Faso. Aubameyang has been named in a significant number of transfer rumors as a result of his situation at Arsenal, and the AFCON tournament would present a perfect opportunity to show other clubs what he is still capable of.
Aubameyang night in Dubai
Just before Aubameyang’s positive COVID-19 test, it came to light that the Gabon international spent a night in Dubai on his way to meet his AFCON teammates.
A video emerged of the 30-year-old party unmasked with international teammates, including Nice midfielder Mario Lemina, who reportedly also tested positive. The video appeared on the Snapchat story of user @walter_sk.
Gabon’s preparation for the tournament has not been exactly low-key. The players first refused to board the plane to the tournament until the federation paid them.
And then Lemina, Auba and the crew were filmed partying in Dubai. https://t.co/NeVLpJAR4C
– Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) January 6, 2022
The night came after Arsenal gave Aubameyang an early release for the tournament following the decision that he would not play Manchester City in the final match before the clubs were forced to release the AFCON players. Arsenal’s other AFCON players, Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pepe and Mohamed Elneny, were released after the match.
What games could Aubameyang miss?
AFCON 2022 kicks off on Sunday, with Gabon playing their first group stage match against Comoros the following day, January 10. They play Ghana four days later before concluding their group stage matches against Morocco on January 18, which would also be within the theoretical 10-day window for Aubameyang to come out of self-isolation.
In the event that Aubameyang was forced to isolate himself due to a positive test, it would be doubtful that he would appear at least in the first game, although it is unclear at this stage if he would not be able to participate in the rest of the competition. The former Dortmund striker has already missed games with Arsenal in the first half of the 2021-22 campaign due to testing positive for COVID-19.
It’s also unclear who else on the team has tested positive, with more players in contact with Aubameyang and Lemina both during the Dubai party and in posted footage from their trip. Reports indicate that the duo of Aubameyang and Lemina did not test positive until they arrived in Cameroon for the tournament.
Gabon’s last group stage game is against Morocco. The country has +6500 to win the tournament and +800 to leave the group, with Morocco and Ghana highly favored to qualify for the knockout phase (odds via DraftKings).
Gabon arrives in Cameroon
The Gabon FA released photos of the team that arrived 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 Gabonese teammates in masks, although it is unclear if he is now isolated.