Africa Cup of Nations: CAF say Morocco tournament will go ahead despite Ebola fears

The Africa Cup of Nations trophy
Image: African Cup of Nations: Tournament to go ahead as planned

The dates for next year’s African Cup of Nations will not be changed because of fears over the Ebola virus, according to the organisers of the tournament.

The three-week competition is due to be staged in Morocco from January 17 to February 8 and the Moroccan government announced on Friday that it wanted the biennial 16-team event postponed.

The announcement followed a report by the Moroccan health ministry into the possible spread of the Ebola virus which has killed more than 4,000 people since the outbreak was first reported in west Africa in March of this year.

However, the African Football Confederation (CAF) insisted on Saturday that there would be no change to the schedule of the tournament.

CAF said it will send a high-powered delegation, led by its president Issa Hayatou, to meet the Moroccan government next month to discuss the issue in Rabat.

"CAF acknowledges this request and confirms it will make no changes to its calendar of scheduled competitions," read a statement.

"We have taken into account the recommendations of the World Health Organisation and various medical experts. It should be noted that since the first edition in 1957 no Africa Cup of Nations has ever been postponed or deferred.

"The request of the Moroccans will be discussed at the next meeting of the CAF executive committee scheduled for November 2 in Algiers.

"Subsequently a meeting will be organised between CAF and the Moroccans in Rabat on November 3. The delegation will be led by CAF president Issa Hayatou."

CAF has already banned international matches in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, which have been affected by the virus.

An advisor to Moroccan Sports Minister Mohammed Ouzzine reiterated the country's reluctance to host the tournament on Saturday.

"The overall interest of Morocco, Moroccan and African citizens, counts above all," said Hamid Faridi.

"Morocco drew up its request on the basis of very serious health recommendations. We cannot, in any case, move towards taking a risk. The principle of precaution must prevail."

Should the tournament be shifted from Morocco, South Africa could potentially step in to stage it, having twice before come to the rescue of the tournament organisers, replacing cash-strapped Kenya in 1996 and strife-torn Libya last year.

A number of qualifiers were played on Saturday and Sudan stunned title-holders Nigeria 1-0 Saturday, while Algeria overcame Malawi 2-0, South Africa triumphed by the same score in Congo Brazzaville and Ivory Coast won 2-1 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sierra Leone exceeded expectations to hold Cameroon 0-0 in Yaounde after surrendering home advantage because of the Ebola epidemic and Togo upset Uganda 1-0 in Kampala.

Around Sky