Blaise Yepmou Mendouo, Cameroonian boxer: “We left the Olympic village because we were threatened”
Cameroonian boxers who deserted their Olympic squad have told the BBC they want to stay in the UK to develop their careers.
The five boxers, who met the BBC at a secret location in London, went missing more than a week ago.
Cameroonian authorities said they suspected the boxers wanted to be economic migrants.
The boxers said they had absconded after they were threatened by senior members of the Cameroonian delegation.
Last week, swimmer Paul Ekane Edingue and female footballer Drusille Ngako also went missing from the Olympic village.
We cannot return to Cameroon… if we return, we will not practise anymore”
Thomas Essomba Cameroonian boxer
The boxers – Thomas Essomba, Christian Donfack Adjoufack, Abdon Mewoli, Blaise Yepmou Mendouo and Serge Ambomo – said that there was no support for athletes in Cameroon.
In the BBC interview, Essomba said the boxers were looking for a sponsor to take them on and to help them obtain long-term residency.
“We are not staying here because we don’t like our country, but [because we] want to practise the sports we love,” he said.
“We want to become professional. We cannot return to Cameroon… if we return, we will not practise anymore.”
Mendouo said Cameroonian officials had treated them badly during the Olympics – and there had been differences over their promised bonuses, which had been halved.
“Cameroonian authorities threatened us – those who brought us to these Games,” he said.
“When a colleague was defeated, he was asked to give his passport.”
The head of the Cameroon delegation to the Olympics, David Ojong, said the boxers were lying.
They had never been threatened and were making up the allegation to justify their desertion, he said.
The boxers have a visa to stay in the UK until November.