JOHANNESBURG (AP) – Congo's sports minister denied reports that Claude Le Roy had resigned as coach of the national football team and said Friday that the Frenchman was ''on the training ground'' with his players ahead of the African Cup of Nations.
Baudouin Banza Mukalayi said reports that Le Roy handed over his resignation days before the Cup of Nations in South Africa over disagreements with the national federation were ''rumors.''
Le Roy's resignation was reported late Thursday on the website of TP Mazembe, Congo's biggest club, and also by at least one television station.
They said Le Roy had quit at Congo's African Cup base in Port Elizabeth, on South Africa's south coast, after the federation had failed to deal effectively with travel visas for the players, or sort out a long-running disagreement over bonus payments for them.
A football federation official also denied Le Roy had resigned.
''These are rumors,'' sports minister Mukalayi said. ''The president (of the football federation), who is in South Africa ... has never received a resignation letter from Claude. Right now he (Le Roy) is on the training ground. The government has done everything to support the national team.''
Mukalayi said bonuses for the players would be paid ''after the first few games'' at the African Cup, while the players' expenses from a training camp in Oman had been settled.
Le Roy, an experienced coach in Africa and in his second spell in charge of Congo, had apparently sided with his players in a dispute over payment.
Roger Bobo Bondembe, a vice president of the Congolese football federation, said Le Roy had not quit and he saw ''no reason that would justify'' his resignation.
''Claude himself said they (the squad) will train this afternoon,'' Bondembe said on Friday.
Congo is in Group B alongside Ghana, Mali and Niger at the African Cup. The team opens its campaign against Ghana, one of the top title contenders, on Sunday.
Associated Press writer Saleh Mwanamilongo contributed to this report from Kinshasa, Congo.