Freed Gallants officials thank government, Safa for intervention

Marumo Gallants media officer Rufus Matsena and the club’s physiotherapist Tebogo Dhlomo have opened up about their ordeal while in captivity in Benghazi, Libya.

The duo was released by the hotel owner on Sunday who had confiscated their passports after claiming that the club owed him $37 000 (R677 77).

The hotel owner previously said he would not release the club officials until he had received full payment from Gallant’s boss Abram Sello.

Matsena and Dhlomo were held captive at the Al Fakhama Hotel Suites for three weeks until the intervention of the South African government via the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco), the SA Football Association (Safa), and South Africa’s ambassador to Tunisia Siphosezwe Masango.

The officials landed back in South Africa on Monday morning after flying via Istanbul, Turkey.

At a press conference attended by Minister of Sport Zizi Kodwa and Safa president Danny Jordaan, Matsena conveyed a message of gratitude to everyone who stood by them during their ordeal.

“Even people that we actually didn’t know were supporting us through and through. And also, we got support from all walks of life, be it media, our families and friends,” said Matsena.

“We really appreciate the work that the media did. You guys put the news out there so that people should be aware of what’s going on. We really appreciate it.

“There are so many people that we can acknowledge including the Dirco, Safa was there [too]. I wouldn’t wish that somebody could go through the same thing. It wasn’t easy.”

He said the idea was to fly out to Libya for a few days to sort out the payment and then return home.

“But things changed and it started getting difficult after a couple of days [after realising] that we are not going home.

“We made a sacrifice and made things a little bit bearable so that our boys could come and play in South Africa. We stayed behind so that we can come up with a system of paying the hotel people in Libya. The boys went home and played three games.

“They played a CAF [Confederation of African Football] game, [played] against Royal AM and Kaizer Chiefs, and they never lost all three games.

“So, it was worth the sacrifice and a plus for us under difficult conditions.”

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