Due to Ebola fears, Morocco won’t host the Africa Cup of Nations 2015 and a replacement country hasn’t been named in Africa’s biennial football championship, NewYorkTimes reports.
After Morocco tried to delay the 16-team competition, it was expelled from participating in the three-week tournament, scheduled from Jan. 17 to Feb. 8.
The Confederation of African Football, or CAF, the regional soccer governing
body, said Moroccan officials were being alarmist in wanting to delay the Cup of Nations by six months or a year, according to NewYorkTimes.
Postponement could be financially crippling to the organization, the CAF has said.
Morocco has no reported Ebola cases, CAF said recently. Relatively few visiting fans were expected for the Cup of Nations and none of the West African nations hit hardest by the Ebola epidemic — Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — have so far qualified for the 2015 Cup of Nations.
Sierra Leone is in last place in its group with two qualifying matches remaining this month. Liberia exited in the preliminary qualifying rounds. Guinea has a chance to qualify for the tournament — it is tied for third place in its four-team group and has been allowed to host some qualifying matches in Casablanca, Morocco, with another match scheduled there Wednesday, NewYorkTimes reports.
Despite threats of being excluded from the Cup of Nations, Morocco refused to
host the scheduled tournament finals because of the possibility of Ebola spreading, asking instead that the Cup event be delayed until June 2015 or early 2016.
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“This decision is motivated mainly by the medical risks that would put this virus on the health of our fellow Africans,” said Moroccon sports minister Mohamed Ouzzine in a statement last week.
CAF said it was reviewing applications but declined to name the other countries wanting to host the Cup of Nations on the scheduled dates.
South Africa, Egypt, Ghana, and Sudan, are not interested, according to news accounts, NewYorkTimes reports. Nigeria, Angola and Gabon have been mentioned as possible replacements, according to The Associated Press.
A decision is expected within days. A fill-in host wouldn’t have much time to prepare if the Cup of Nations stays on schedule.
Plans are for the tournament to proceed, said Constant Omari, president of the soccer federation of the Democratic Republic of Congo and a CAF executive committee member, in a French radio interview Monday.
“The financial damage and the consequences for CAF and its marketing partners would be too severe to call it off,” Omari said.
This isn’t Africa’s only Ebola-related disruption. African officials won’t allow Guinea,
Liberia and Sierra Leone to play any matches at home until further notice.
Seychelles forfeited a match in July and was dismissed from qualifying for the Cup of Nations after refusing entry to Sierra Leone’s team citing Ebola concerns.
Sierra Leone’s team faced chants of “Ebola, Ebola” when it played recently in Cameroon and DRC. Sierra Leone players were placed in a hotel that had no other guests on a trip in October to Cameroon, where they were subjected to twice-daily Ebola checks, NewYorkTimes reports.