The Senegalese Football Federation (FSF) says it has suspended domestic football until further notice because of deadly protests in the West African nation sparked by the prosecution of an opposition leader.
The move comes amid tensions in Senegal following last week’s sentencing of Ousmane Sonko to two years in prison.
Police said the death toll since Thursday had risen to 16, making the protests among the deadliest in recent decades. Two members of the security forces were among those killed, according to the presidency.
“All football competitions are suspended until further notice throughout the national territory,” the FSF said in a statement, adding that the decision was the result of a government order.
Reigning African champions the Teranga Lions, who have already qualified for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast, are unaffected by this as they are away to Group L bottom side Benin on 17 June in their qualifying fixture.
With five rounds of matches remaining in the Senegalese top tier, table toppers AS Académie Génération Foot are four points ahead of second place Diambars.
Other affected competitions include men’s, women’s and youth FA Cup fixtures, with knock out stages initially scheduled for 21 to 25 June.
Stars call for peace
The violent situation in Senegal is in stark contrast to the February 2022 celebration when hundreds of thousands of ecstatic fans greeted the football team’s return to the capital Dakar after winning the Africa Cup of Nations.
National team captain Kalidou Koulibaly and talisman Sadio Mane are among the country’s top footballers who have taken to social media to appeal for peace.
“Over the past two years we have been experiencing episodes of unprecedented violence that have caused many victims,” Chelsea defender Koulibaly posted on Instagram, where he has 2.6 million followers.
“We are living through one of the bloodiest times. All my prayers to our dead. My support and prayers to the families of our victims. My support and prayers to all our wounded.
“The violence that has raged in recent days must stop. It is urgent that peace takes over.
“I therefore appeal to the responsibility of all components of our society so that our country unites and protects our youth, its citizens and their property.
“It is urgent to guarantee the safety of the lives of all Senegalese citizens.”
Former Liverpool forward Mane, who now plays for German Bundesliga side Bayern Munich, also called for peace in his native country.
He posted to his 14.2 million Instagram followers that: “Too much blood has already been spilled in two years.
“It is essential that all stakeholders across the nation join their efforts immediately to restore peace.”
Watford winger Ismaila Sarr, who was part of the team that helped Senegal to a maiden continental success last year, joined his colleagues in calling for peace.
“Violence only leads to more violence and this cycle needs to be broken. It is our responsibility to ensure that our country remains a place of peace, mutual respect and love.” he added.