AFCON D-Day looms for Morocco

2014-11-08 11:30
AFCON 2015 (Supplied)
AFCON 2015 (Supplied)

Cape Town - Morocco will make a decision this weekend over whether to stage the 2015 African Nations Cup, juggling the threat of a possible spread of the Ebola virus with the likelihood of heavy sanctions against their football teams.

The host nation want to postpone the January 17-February 8 tournament because of the deadly virus, but the Confederation of African Football (CAF) is refusing to entertain a change of dates and wants a final decision from the country by Saturday.

CAF said Morocco's concerns are alarmist, notably the fear the competition will attract tens of thousands of visitors from west Africa where almost 5 000 have died because of Ebola.

The confederation believes there will be just a few thousand travelling fans and points out that only one country where Ebola has proven deadly, Guinea, are in the running to qualify.

"We understand the precaution a sovereign state has to take but it's important not to stigmatise the virus and increase the fear of it, rather be factual about how it can be transmitted from one place to the other while taking all necessary measures," said CAF general secretary Hicham El Amrani this week.

Moroccan Youth and Sports Minister Mohamed Ouzzine, however, suggested the public may boycott the tournament and players based in Europe would not take part, rendering it a flop for all concerned.

Ouzzine's country face sanctions if they withdraw as hosts while CAF is gambling with a showpiece event that provides a major share of its income through marketing and television spoils.

CAF, while hoping to pressure Morocco into a change of heart, has been unable to gain public declarations of interest from other countries it has approached to step in as emergency hosts.

If Morocco withdraw, the absence of an alternative venue could force a cancellation of the 16-team competition.

Read more on:    afcon 2015  |  soccer

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