updated 9/21/2005 7:42:16 PM ET 2005-09-21T23:42:16

The crew of a chartered jet pretended they needed to make an emergency landing so 289 Gambian soccer fans on board could watch their team compete in a youth soccer championship, officials said Wednesday.

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The plane, claiming to be low on fuel, landed Tuesday in Peru's northern coast city of Piura where the FIFA Under 17 World Championship was taking place.

"It truly was a scam," said Betty Maldonado, a spokeswoman for Peru's aviation authority, CORPAC. "They tricked the control tower, saying they were low on fuel."

Emergency crews were scrambled ahead of the unscheduled landing by the Lockheed L-1011 Tri-Star Aircraft, owned by Air Rum Ltd., Maldonado told The Associated Press.

The Air Rum plane, which she said was chartered by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, should have made its approach to the capital, Lima, but instead flew directly to Piura, entering Peruvian airspace "without permission."

The passengers were permitted to attend the African team's 3-1 victory over Qatar on Tuesday night, she added, but the plane remained in Piura on Wednesday while authorities determined what penalty, if any, to levy against the airline.

Gambian newspaper Daily Observer reported on its Web page Wednesday that the group of fans had been delayed for a week in a hotel in the small West African nation and were forced Friday to watch their country's victory over Brazil on television.

Carlos Ordonez, a Piura Municipal spokesman, said the Gambian soccer fans caused a "sensation" in the small city, which offered a ceremony in their honor that included performances by local folk singers and dancers.

"A visit like theirs doesn't happen very often, and we wanted them to leave with a good image of Piura as a hospitable city," Ordonez said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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