A Tunisian fourth-division football club has suspended its activities after 30 of its players emigrated illegally to Europe, its president said on Tuesday.
The club's president, Jamil Meftahi, told AFP that no fewer than 32 players have emigrated illegally to Europe over the past three years.
"We stopped the activity and suspended the matches 20 days ago," he added.
The official blamed the exodus on "a lack of financial resources" for the club and the players. "We can't buy equipment, jerseys and sports shoes" and the players "don't get financial subsidies".
According to him, most of the players, aged between 17 and 22, have travelled to Europe "either by sea or by going to Serbia (a country for which Tunisians did not need visas until recently, editor's note) and then illegally crossing the borders to other countries".
The suspension of the club's activities will continue "until we find a solution with the Tunisian Football Federation", Meftahi added.
Ghardimaou is a border town with Algeria in the north-west of the country, a marginalised area that depends heavily on agriculture.
In recent years, clandestine emigration of Tunisian sportsmen has become increasingly common.
In mid-February, the Avenir Sportif de Rejiche club announced that its substitute goalkeeper, Khalil Zaouli, a 19-year-old, had emigrated illegally to Italy because of "the club's financial difficulties".
Tunisia, whose coastline is less than 150 kilometres from the Italian island of Lampedusa, regularly records attempts by migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan African countries, to leave for Italy.
In recent years, faced with an economic and social situation that has deteriorated further since the coup de force a year and a half ago by President Kais Saied, thousands of Tunisians have also left the country illegally by sea.
According to the Italian Interior Ministry, more than 14,000 migrants have landed in Italy since the beginning of the year, compared to just over 5,300 in the same period last year and 4,300 in 2021.