Morocco stripped of hosting Afcon 2015

Moroccan football fans have been denied the opportunity to watch Afcon 2015 games live on home soil. (Reuters)

Moroccan football fans have been denied the opportunity to watch Afcon 2015 games live on home soil. (Reuters)

Morocco has been stripped of hosting the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and flung out of the competition after saying they wanted to postpone the tournament because of fears about the Ebola epidemic, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced on Tuesday.

The decision was taken during a six-hour meeting of the CAF executive committee at its Cairo headquarters.

Morocco has said since early October that its call for a postponement was “dictated by health reasons of the most dangerous kind, linked to the serious risk of the spread of the deadly Ebola pandemic”.

CAF called on the Moroccans to change their minds, but decided at Tuesday’s meeting that the response they had been given “clearly indicates that the Royal Moroccan Football Federation reiterated its refusal to hold the competition on the dates indicated. Therefore, having firmly and unanimously notified on November 3 its decision to keep the competition on the dates indicated, the executive committee confirmed that the Orange Africa Cup of Nations 2015 will not take place in Morocco.”

The CAF said other countries had indicated a willingness to host the tournament and that a decision on a new host would be taken “shortly”.

A senior CAF source speaking on condition of anonymity said later that up to three countries, including Angola and Gabon, could be in the running to replace Morocco.

Angola hosted the event in 2010, when separatists attacked the Togo team, and Gabon co-hosted with Equatorial Guinea in 2012. Among the countries reportedly not interested in replacing Morocco as host at such short notice are South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan and Ghana, while there has been no public response from reigning champions Nigeria.

The dates for the 2015 edition of the continent’s most prestigious football tournament are January 17 to February 9. The CAF executive committee confirmed that qualification matches for the tournament will continue as planned on November 14 to 15 to decide which 15 teams will join that of the new host country for the finals.   

Exaggerated fears
The Ebola virus has killed at least 4 960 people, mainly in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Morocco fears that an influx of foreign fans could help spread the epidemic. CAF has said the fears are exaggerated and that only a limited number of foreign fans will go there. 

The Ebola epidemic first hit the Cup of Nations in August, when Seychelles forfeited a qualifying tie rather than host a return match against Sierra Leone.

As the death toll mounted, CAF barred Sierra Leone and Guinea from hosting their qualifying group games. Apart from being kicked out of the competition, CAF indicated that the Moroccan Football Federation could be hit by further sanctions, notably financial. 

“The organising committee of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations will later apply the statutory provisions that are required due to a breach of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation regulatory and contractual provisions, including those set out in the host association agreement signed between CAF and the Royal Moroccan Football Federation in April 2014,” it said. – AFP

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