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Eight Cameroon athletes missing from the Games after they ‘just left in the night’

Greg Stolz, April 11, 2018 7:35PM The Courier-Mail

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Olivier Heracles Matam Matam of Cameroon competes during the weightlifting at the Commonwealth Games. Picture: Getty Images media_cameraOlivier Heracles Matam Matam of Cameroon competes during the weightlifting at the Commonwealth Games. Picture: Getty Images

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Eight Cameroon athletes here to compete in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast have gone missing.

The African team was yesterday forced to fly its team home in an emergency evacuation* from the Games after one-third of its athletes vanished in a series of midnight escapes.

A manhunt* was started for five boxers and three weightlifters, who disappeared from the athlete’s village under the cover of darkness in three different escapes.

Boxing soldier Christian Ndzie Tsoye, 28, failed to show for his event on Tuesday after disappearing with boxing teammate Simplice Fotsala, a 28-year-old Rio Olympian, and weightlifter Olivier Matam Matam, 25.

Weightlifters Arcangeline Fouodji Sonkbou, 30, and Petit Minkoumba, 29, and boxers Arsene Fokou Fosso, 34, and Ulrich Yombo, 25, and Christelle Ndiang, 29, followed the other Cameroonians out of the village.

“They just left in the night,” Cameroon press attache Simon Molombe said.

“When we got up in the morning, they were not there. It’s very, very disappointing and very, very embarrassing for Cameroon.”

Mr Molombe said the eight athletes had given no indication they were planning to flee.

“If they had, we would have prevented them from leaving,” he said.

Asked why the athletes might have left, Mr Molombe said: “I can’t answer that — only they know the reason.”

Mr Molombe said Australia was “nice” and “maybe they like to stay”.

Mr Molombe promised there would be no punishment if the five athletes returned.

“If they did come back, nothing will happen to them,” he said. “We would simply take them back to Cameroon,” he said.

Weightlifter Olivier Matam Matam competes in the Games before going missing. Picture: Getty Picture: Getty Images media_cameraWeightlifter Olivier Matam Matam competes in the Games before going missing. Picture: Getty Picture: Getty Images
Boxer Simplice Fotsala is one of five Cameroon athletes missing. Picture: Getty Images media_cameraBoxer Simplice Fotsala is one of five Cameroon athletes missing. Picture: Getty Images

The Australian Border Force* has been alerted as Games athletes are only allowed into Australia on limited visas* and cannot stay beyond the sporting event.

It is not the first time Cameroon athletes have ‘done a runner’ from a Games event — seven athletes went on the run from the London Olympics in 2012.

And 45 athletes and officials sought asylum in Australia after the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games including team members from the African countries of Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Sierra Leone as well as the south-Asian nation of Bangladesh.

People who seek asylum usually fear being attacked in their home country because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or their political opinion*.

Petit Minkoumba showed up to compete in the weightlifting but is now missing. Picture: Getty Images media_cameraPetit Minkoumba showed up to compete in the weightlifting but is now missing. Picture: Getty Images

Gold Coast Commonwealth Games chairman Peter Beattie said it was common for athletes to go missing during big sporting events, but urged the athletes, who have not yet breached* their visas, to return to their team.

“It happens at every Games and it’s not a surprise,” Mr Beattie said.

“In terms of the athletes, I just simply say enjoy Australia while you’re here, stay within the law and be mindful of the fact that there is a system in place in this country.”

Games chairman Peter Beattie says it is not unusual for athletes to go missing from big sporting events. Picture: Getty Images media_cameraGames chairman Peter Beattie says it is not unusual for athletes to go missing from big sporting events. Picture: Getty Images

Mr Beattie reminded all athletes that anyone overstaying their visa would be pursued by federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who has the power to send them back home.

Commonwealth Games Federation chairman David Grevemberg said it was “obviously disappointing” that some Cameroon athletes had not shown up to compete.

“But I think it’s also important to remember that these athletes are guests here in Australia at this time, they’re still within their visas, they have the right to travel freely,” he said.

GLOSSARY

evacuation: leaving a place

manhunt: an organised search for a wanted person

Australian Border Force: organisation that protects our borders and stops illegal immigrants entering the country by air or sea

visas: a passport stamp

political opinion: beliefs held about the politics of a country

breached: broken the law

LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

1. Comprehension

Answer these questions in detail to demonstrate your understanding of the article and your opinion on it:

— What is the assumed reason for the disappearance of the five athletes?

— Why is it that the chairman of the Commonwealth Games is not surprised that this has occurred?

— What are some possible outcomes for the athletes involved?

— Do you think there are any reasons that could justify the athletes’ actions?

Extension: Find out some information about Cameroon. Identify three things that are similar about Cameroon and Australia and three things that are different.

Time: Allow 20 minutes

Curriculum links: English, Intercultural Capability

2. Put yourself in their place

Think about what has occurred and the decisions the missing athletes have made. Create a word cloud containing a list of emotions that you think they may have gone through/be going through related to this incident.

Extension: Create a digital version of your word cloud for display in your classroom using one of the many available online programs.

Time: Allow 15 minutes

Curriculum links: English, Personal and Social Capability

VCOP ACTIVITY

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many pieces of punctuation as you can find in green. Discuss how these are being used, where and how often. What level of the punctuation pyramid is the journalist using in this article?

IN ONE SENTENCE, TELL US WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THIS STORY

Please do not use one-word answers. Explain what you enjoyed or found interesting about the article. Use lots of adjectives.

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