Morocco Denies Withdrawing as Host of 2015 Africa Cup of Nations Due to Ebola

Morocco has not officially withdrawn from hosting the 2015 African Cup of Nations as fears over the Ebola virus continue to increase.

The Associated Press, via The Washington Post‘s Staff, reveals Morocco has denied initial reports suggesting the withdrawal:

Morocco’s minister of information has denied reports that his country has withdrawn as host of next year’s African Cup of Nations because of the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

But Mustapha Khalfi, who is also the government spokesman, says Morocco still wants the tournament postponed, forcing a conflict with organizers.

The Confederation of African Football insists the Jan. 17-Feb. 8 event must go ahead as planned.

According to the BBC, a meeting is scheduled for November 2 to discuss potential changes. The report also notes that the federation has been considering alternate sites:

Speaking in an interview with Ghanaian radio station Citi FM, Ayariga added: “Caf also indicated that it was firm on the tournament dates but they will meet the Moroccan authorities and take a decision at that meeting.

“But in the meantime they are writing to a number of countries that they think have the capacity to be an alternative venue… in the event of Morocco actually pulling out.”

Football writer Jonathan Wilson initially reported that the tournament, originally scheduled to take place between Jan. 17-Feb. 8, no longer had a scheduled host:

Wilson provided further details:

As reported by Chris Maduewesi of the Nigerian Bulletin, Morocco representative Mohamed Ouzzine released a statement saying “this demand is motivated essentially by the last report from the World Health Organisation, which contained alarming numbers at the extent and spread of the virus.”

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The Moroccan government was previously reported to have written to the Confederation of African Football to delay the bi-annual championship, per BBC News. CAF confirmed it would discuss the matter at a meeting on Nov. 2, but it seems the decision has already been made, just three months before the continent’s showcase event is due to kick off.

African football specialist Gary Al-Smith reported Ghana’s officials were looking at plans to host the event:

More than 4,000 people have died since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa at the beginning of the year, reported by the BBC. In August, Seychelles decided to forfeit their African Cup of Nations qualifier against Sierra Leone due to the spread of the virus. This cost the team their place in the competition.

On Sept. 20, CAF extended the decision to place an international football ban on Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. This was originally due to run until the middle of September, but will now run indefinitely.

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Prior to Morocco’s reported abdication of hosting rights, a CAF statement read, “It must be noted that since the first edition in 1957, the Africa Cup of Nations has never witnessed a deferral or a change in schedule,” per BBC Sport.

The gathering of supporters, teams and players from across Africa could have devastating effects to both the continent and beyond. Not only would the proximity of the stands increase chances of the virus being passed on, many high-profile stars are scheduled to travel away from Africa and back to their clubs right after the competition.

Players such as Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus) and Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow) could potentially export the disease to England, Italy and Russia respectively. Considering this is just a small example of how easily the contagious virus may spread, it is easy to see why the competition could be axed over safety concerns.

As noted by CAF’s current football ban in the aforementioned African nations, health should be placed above all in this situation.