THE three Newcastle United players involved in Saturday night’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier that had to be abandoned because of heavy rioting will return to Tyneside at the earliest suitable time.
Newcastle’s attacking pair Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse were both part of the Senegal team when their fans began to hurl rocks and start fires in the stands of Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor as Ivory Coast edged closer to knocking their opponents out of next year’s finals.
Ivorians, who had travelled to Dakar to watch the likes of the Magpies’ Cheik Tiote finish the job they started after a 4-2 first leg win, had to jump down on to the pitch to escape the violence.
More than 30 people were injured in clashes which also took place outside the ground including Senegalese sports minister Hadji Malick Gakou. There were no reported deaths.
The problems escalated when flames started to appear above the players’ tunnel shortly after Didier Drogba slotted in the Elephants’ second goal from the penalty spot with 18 minutes remaining.
After that more and more small fires appeared around the stadium, as the travelling supporters tried everything to evade the stones being thrown in their direction that had been broken off the terraces.
While the trouble escalated in the stands, both teams had to wait in the centre circle and it was 25 minutes before they were ushered back in to the dressing rooms once three big, black cars were driven on to the pitch to help supporters flee.
The Confederation of African Football is yet to officially indicate what decisions have been made.
But it is expected that the outcome, with the Ivory Coast 6-2 up with 18 minutes remaining, will still stand. That would mean the Ivory Coast qualify for January’s Africa Cup of Nations at Senegal’s expense.
Senegal could also be hit with further sanctions for the scenes, but their official news agency stated: “The match was halted and the Lions of Senegal will not qualify for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.”
If that is to be the case then both Cisse and Ba will not be heading away on international duty for over a month after the turn of the year. Newcastle’s key midfielder, Tiote, however, will be, provided he remains the essential member of the Ivory Coast squad he is today.
Newcastle were last night not clear on when the three players will be returning to the North-East, but a club source suggested their return will be at an expedient time.
Magpies boss Alan Pardew will be hoping the impact of the riots they witnessed will not affect them too heavily. Newcastle face Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.