Eritrea’s withdrawal from the African qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup, as reported by ‘The Guardian’ newspaper, is not just due to football reasons. According to the publication, the country’s football federation (ENFF) made the decision not to participate in the qualifiers due to the local government’s intention to prevent players from seeking political asylum during international trips.
FIFA and the African Football Confederation (CAF) announced Eritrea’s withdrawal last Friday (10), without providing an official explanation. The team was in Group E, along with Morocco, Zambia, Congo, Tanzania and Niger, and planned games against these teams were cancelled.
‘The Guardian’ also highlights that ENFF did not respond to the questions raised by the report. Eritrea has been led by Isaias Afwerki for more than 30 years, since the proclamation of independence following conflicts with the Ethiopian government. The country has not held elections to choose a president since then.
The Eritrea men’s national team’s last game was in January 2020, in a friendly against Sudan. Currently, the team does not appear in the FIFA rankings, as teams are removed from the list after 48 months (four years) without participating in games recognized by the federation.