Rwanda’s reigning league champions Rayon Sport have sacked their top scorer from last season, Ghanaian striker Michael Sarpong.
Sarpong, who was among players who had threatened to take the club to court after it announced suspension of salaries amidst the coronavirus pandemic, was dismissed for gross misconduct.
Rayon Sport president Sadat Munyakazi told BBC Sport Africa that while the pay dispute has now been resolved, the club has decided to terminate the Ghanaian’s contract for “tarnishing the image of the club.”
In an interview with local radio before his dismissal, Sarpong had claimed he and teammates were owed four months’ salary in arrears and accused Munyakazi of abandoning them during the pandemic, saying he was not fit for the position of club president.
“He doesn’t deserve this great club. This great club deserves someone who is mature and who is able to speak well to his players. He doesn’t. I don’t the players want him in that position,” he said in the interview.
Club captain Eric Rutega earlier confirmed to BBC Sport Africa that the pay dispute had been resolved after the club agreed to pay the players their March salaries, whilst they have accepted the suspension of salaries starting from April.
Rayon Sports are currently struggling financial as they rely on matchday ticket income.
Their last league game, over a month ago, was held behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic fears and the club is currently facing cash crisis.
“We understand there is no money to continue paying our salaries because the club relies a lot on gate collections, and now there are no games due to the lockdown occasioned by the pandemic,” Rutega said.
However Mr Munyakazi said they will continue providing the players with emergency relief money and food until the league resumes.
Sarpong joined Rayon in October 2018 from Ghanaian side Dreams FC on a two-year contract.
He was the club’s top scorer last season with 16 goals, helping them win their ninth title.
In January the Ghanaian had for trials with Chinese side Changchung Yatai FC, but he was unsuccessful.
Munyakazi says the player left again in February for trials in Norway without informing the club.
“We only learned after the club contacted us requesting to have Sarpong on loan but we refused because he had not involved us” he said.
The club president said when the player returned from Norway they agreed with him he was not going to receive February salary since he was away without the club’s permission, and he accepted.
He said there was a chance of selling him to an interested club but “no amount of money is worth the image of our club which this player has tarnished.”
Rwanda has been on lockdown since 21 March, and all sports activities, including top flight football league games, have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The league was suspended with six rounds of matches to go. Rayon are second on the table with 51 points, six behind leaders APR.
Having put behind the dispute over pay, Captain Eric Rutaga believes they are in a position to retain the league.
“Last season APR were 14 points clear with six weeks to go, but were able to recover and we won the league.” He said.
The current lockdown ends on 30 April but no date has been scheduled for resumption of the league.