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HomeCAF Confederation CupGallants Boss Details What Happened In Libyan Hostage Over R678 521 Bill

Gallants Boss Details What Happened In Libyan Hostage Over R678 521 Bill

Marumo Gallants Chairman Abram Sello insists the 21-day hostage drama of his two members of staff in Libya was not dragged on due to not having the funds.

Gallants, who have qualified for the quarter-final of the CAF Confederation Cup were without their media liaison officer and physiotherapist Rufus Matsema and Tebogo Dhlomo for three weeks as they were ‘detained’ in North Africa by a hotel owner, who claimed they were used as collateral for unpaid bills.

The DStv Premiership club remained tight-lipped over the entire ordeal until the duo returned home on Monday and in a media briefing at Hotel Sky in Sandton on Tuesday morning, Sello and the two affected parties offered their side of the story.

It’s been suggested by Sello that they struggled to secure flights to Benghazi where the fixture against Al Akdhar would like place due to the Holy month of Ramadan and several agencies were contacted and even a chartered flight was attempted at some point.

But even the latter could not take them directly to their destination without forfeiting the fixture.

“We were there in October using an Egyptian airline, and that was that – and we believed the seats will be available as we were only 24 people but now it came up to a point where no seats were available for flights,” Sello explained around the travel nightmare.

“We started as early as January with planning the trip to Libya during Ramadan, we tried all agencies until we came to that particular arrangement with the hotel owner.

“As a last resort [to honour the fixture] we contacted the hotel owner which we met on our previous trip, the man we know as Dr. Ali, who assisted us with return tickets from Istanbul to Benghazi,” Sello added as they left a couple of players behind in Turkey and their kits.

“We booked accommodation at his hotel for an agreed rate and that bill was settled in full upon the team checkout, the only amount due was for the flight tickets, and the kit in Benghazi and we tried making payments at Albaraka Bank, both in South Africa and in Turkey, as well as other South African banks but faced [difficulties in making the payment].

Two staff members remained behind as the team checked out in order to finalise the last payment, we paid on costs on estimates received, and the hotel owner then demanded an additional amount which was a lump sum of $37,000 (R678 521).

During this time,  Dr Ali Elzargha, reportedly, refused to return the passports of Matsema and Dhlomo who then stayed behind in order to make sure the bill was settled by helping facilitate a cash transfer to the owner.

“The bill was settled, I don’t want to open the discussion [on who paid what], as I said, we have the support we needed from our country at large including the media,” Sello said.

“We appreciate it and I think from now, things will be done working together [to improve] our travels. I’m not going into details of the arrangements [of payment] but everything is sorted out, the international relations have come in and everything is fine.”

But when pressed on how the matter can be let go as what could be described as extortion and a hostage of foreigners outside of their country, should be considered a serious criminal offense, Sello did not want to get involved in the intricacies behind the notion.

“I won’t do any judgments now [on it being a criminal offense], we have handed the details to the relevant authorities, they are busy with that [investigation] and they will make sure it gets solved with the government, SAFA, and all the authorities. I can’t pre-empt what will happen, what they must do, I’ve done our part as a club.”

Gallants have been drawn with Egyptian Premier League side Pyramids in the last-eight of the competition.

Lorenz Kohler
Lorenz Kohler
Lorenz Köhler is an award-winning South African football journalist. Having cut his teeth in the industry working at Kick-Off Magazine, he is now iDiski Times' senior digital content writer. He specialises in breaking top African football stories and transfers with a major focus on the 'big-three' Mamelodi Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates and CAF inter-club and international competitions. In 2021 he was listed amongst the top-five journalists under 30 in Print Media for the AIPS Awards.