With the dust arising from the disappearence of 17 Eritrean football players and a team official yet to settle, the country’s football federation has withdrawn from their Africa Nations Championships qualifer against their bitter rivals, Ethiopia early next year.

A statement from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) indicates that Eritrea has pulled out of the qualifer that was due in Asamara between Jan 14-16, 2013 with a return fixture booked after a fortnight in Addis Ababa.

Earlier on, Ethiopian authorities had earlier on indicated their fears to travel to Asmara calling for  the match to be held on a neutral ground, something that is speculated to be the trigger behind Eritea’s move.

“We have just been informed by the Eritrean Football Federation that its national team is withdrawing from the matches,” said a letter from CAF’s Competitions Deputy Director Shereen Arafa.

Last week, 17 Eritrean National team players including their team doctor disappeared from their Sky View Hotel in Kampala after the last group CECAFA Tusker Fixture against Rwanda. However, they resurfaced after three days while applying for asylum at the Ministry of Disaster Preparededness and Refugees citing unfriendly living conditions back at home.

The African Nations Championship, played every two years, is the continent’s second biggest tournament in which only domestic-based players can take part. Ethiopia and Eritrea were last drawn against each other in 1998 in a qualifying round for the 2000 African Nations Cup, just months after fighting broke out along their sun-blasted border.

Ethiopia declined to take part in those matches.

David Isabirye is a senior staff writer for Kawowo Sports where he covers most of the major events.

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