Ebola risk puts clubs on alert

2014-10-16 21:00
Jurgen Klopp (Supplied)
Jurgen Klopp (Supplied)

Berlin - Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp on Thursday raised fears expressed by a growing number of European clubs about African players being exposed to the risk of Ebola contamination while on international duty.

Klopp questioned whether the Africa Cup of Nations, scheduled to be held in Morocco from January 17 to February 8, should go ahead, while the president of French club Lyon said he had written to FIFA about games involving African countries at the centre of the deadly epidemic.

One Spanish club has already brought back a Guinean international from Cup of Nations duty and AC Milan were forced to deny at the weekend that Ghanaian international Michael Essien had Ebola.

With the Ebola death toll in West Africa now at nearly 4,500, hosts Morocco have called for the Cup of Nations to be postponed. But the Confederaton of African Football (CAF) has insisted that the tournament must start as planned on January 17.

"The fact is that I wonder a lot about this subject," said Klopp. "When a country has the feeling that it cannot find the right solution we should be worried.

"We don't have the right to close our eyes and say: 'we are going to carry on as normal'."

Klopp said he had spoken about the epidemic with Dortmund's Gabonese international Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Schalke coach Roberto di Matteo admitted that he is also concerned.

"It's worrying. I know it is dangerous," said di Matteo, who has several African players, including Cameroon striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, in his squad.

Choupo-Moting played for Cameroon on Wednesday in a 2-0 win over Sierra Leone, who have been ordered to play all qualifying games on neutral territory because of the epidemic.

- Call for FIFA action -

Jean-Michel Aulas, president of French side Lyon, said on Wednesday he had written to world governing body FIFA about teams from countries affected by Ebola.

Two Lyon players, Clinton N'Jie and Henri Bedimo, were in the Cameroon squad for the Sierra Leone game, and Aulas said that his club were considering how to handle the epidemic.

"It is of course a subject to question, and of safety, when you are responsible," Aulas told a press conference.

He said the Union of French Professional Clubs (UCPF) and the European Clubs Association (ECA) should act "in the interests of clubs and also for players."

"I sent a letter to FIFA last week about a certain number of (African) matches that have been moved and the teams from countries affected by the epidemic," Aulas said.

Sierra Leone and Guinea have both been ordered to play their Cup of Nations qualifying matches in neutral countries.

Spanish club Rayo Vallecano ordered Guinean international Lass Bangoura to return from Africa Cup of Nations duty last week because his teammates were afraid of catching Ebola.

"I was upset when I heard that some teammates in the (Rayo) dressing room were worried about me and about Ebola," the 22-year-old attacker said, although he added that he had wanted to leave as he was under contract with the Madrid-based side.

Elsewhere, African news reports set off an alarm over the health of AC Milan midfielder Essien. The Ghanaian's Serie A club Milan "categorically" denied that Essien has Ebola, saying: "Such reports are totally without foundation and what is more were never confirmed by any employee of the club."

Essien put out a statement and photo on Twitter to show he was "very fit and very healthy".

"The Ebola virus is a very serious issue and people shouldn't joke about it. Whoever wrote this article is very unprofessional and insensitive," Essien said.


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