Ghana were 4-0 up and coasting when the crowd saw Avram Grant scurrying into the dressing room.
It was an odd sight, one you don’t see often.
“Avram first spoke to FA spokesman Ibrahim Sannie Daara, and then rushed off. We didn’t know what was going on,” says a Joy Sports journalist, who saw the whole incident developing.
A murmur went through the crowd as the Israeli briskly walked along the touchline to the dressing room after the half hour mark of the 2017 Afcon qualifier at the Accra Stadium on Sunday.
Immediately the coach went out of view, Mauritius got a freekick from which striker Andy Sophie converted after some lax Ghana defending.
Moments later, Avram returned after leaving his assistant in charge for the intermission.
“Some of us thought he was leaving the game because of the scoreline, while others noted that he probably wanted to use the toilet!” said another journalist who witnessed the brief in-and-out.
But as it turned out, Grant was responding to an emergency of another kind.
“Since [Saturday] night, I’d not been feeling very well and [before coming onto the pitch] I had left my medicine so I just went down to get it for a moment,” he said at the post-match presser.
He went on, wryly: “If you’re worried about me, I’m fine.”
Avram Grant’s action on Sunday left the Joy Sports team seeking education on whether it was legal to leave in the middle of the game as he did.
According to Joseph Wellington, a retired Fifa referee, the laws of the game do not inhibit a coach from doing so.
“The framers of the fotball laws know that human beings may need emergencies, so it is perfectly legal for Avram to have done that. And it’s not just coaches, even referees can leave the picth and come back if they really have to,” he told Asempa FM on Sunday evening.
As observers of European football know, Jose Mourinho is famed for leaving the pitch minutes before full time in league matches, often after a handshake with the opposing manager.
In another humorous historical antecedent, popular Welsh football analyst Robbie Savage – at the time he played for Leicester in 2002 – was fined £10,000 for using the referee’s toilet before his team’s game with Aston Villa.
He reluctantly accepted the charge of ‘improper conduct’.
“I was on two lots of antibiotics at the time for a kick on my leg, which resulted in an upset stomach,” he said at the time, going on: “I had a bad case of diarrhoea on the day of the game, so had to go there and then, and the nearest place was the referee’s toilet. Most people in my situation wouldn’t have played that day. There is no way in the world I would use the referee’s toilet deliberately, but if I found myself in an identical situation, I would do exactly the same thing.”
In Ghana, there was a comical case in the Premier League when a referee scurried off the pitch in 2013 following a similar tug of war with his stomach.
The ref returned five minutes later to ironic applause from the players and fans at the Accra Sports Stadium.
Follow Gary on Twitter: @garyalsmith
Story by Ghana/Joy Sports/Gary Al-Smith
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