Facebook ChecksFact CheckSierra Leone

The Sierra Leone football team did not travel by boat to Cameroon for #AFCON2021 as claimed by Football World

Claim: A popular Facebook page named Football World claimed that the Sierra Leone national team arrived in Cameroon by boat as a result of inadequate resources to book a flight.

The team travelled with a chartered airline to Cameroon and not a boat.

Full Text

Football World, a popular football page with over a million followers, recently posted images of the Sierra Leone national football team after its goalless draw with the defending African champions, the desert foxes of Algeria. 

Reporting on their facebook page on the resilient performance from the Leone stars, Football World claimed the national team travelled from Sierra Leone to Cameroon on a boat. According to the report, the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) had limited resources to pay for a flight and therefore had to resort to a cheaper means of transport, a boat, for a 2000 kilometer journey from Freetown to Cameroon.

“Their fans said goodbye with kisses on the feet and arrived in Cameroon in boats, given the few resources that their federation has to pay for flights. Thus, they traveled more than 2,000 kilometers…,”part of the post reads.

The report by Football World follows a stellar performance by the Leone Stars in the opening Group E match against defending champions Algeria which ended in a stalemate. It is the first AFCON appearance by the Leone Stars in 26 years. 

With the post attracting close to  90,000 likes on the Facebook page, over  8,000 combined comments and shares, and given how convinced a good number of people were in response to the claim, Dubawa saw the need to fact-check the story and to correct possible cases of misrepresentation in the story. 

Verification

Football World failed to note that Sierra Leone’s international Airport, named the Lungi International Airport, is separated from the city by the Sierra Leone river estuary on the north side of the harbour for Lungi and the south side of the harbour for Freetown. This clearly means that to access the airport for travel purposes, one would have to use a speed boat or a  ferry if they want to avoid making the road trip from Freetown to Lungi or take the alternative of going through the northern town of Port Loko via road which is also time-consuming..

In fact, a viral video shared on social media showed some football fans cheering their national team while boarding a boat to access the Lungi International Airport. The video featured players on the boat sharing felicitations and assuring the people of Sierra Leone of a successful tournament. It was evident the team was headed to  Lungi via the boat taxi and not directly to Cameroon as claimed by Football world. 

Also, an  instagram live video by the veteran Sierra Leonean attacker and a member of Leone Stars, Kei Kamara, showed the team on the boat taxi and as the team transited from the boat to a bus that took them to the airport. “You gotta get on a bus to get to the plane,” Kamara said moments after they disembarked from the boat and boarded the bus to Lungi airport.

Viral images of the Sierra Leone delegation at the Lungi International Airport as they prepared to board  their flight to Cameroon also counter the claim made by Football World. As seen in the photos shared on the Sierra Leone Football Association Twitter page, the Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) was the chartered aircraft that flew the team to Cameroon.

Photo Credit- SLFA twitter page

Dubawa further reached out to Ibrahim Kamara who is the head of media and marketing of the Sierra Leone Football Association currently in Cameroon and he refuted the claim by emphasizing that the national team had a chartered flight that took the delegation to Cameroon.

Conclusion

Whilst it is confirmed that the team did board a boat as they departed Freetown, it is inaccurate to suggest that they travelled to Cameroon on a boat because they lacked the financial muscle to board a flight for the AFCON competition. A chartered flight was used.

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