Ebola also affects soccer’s Africa Cup of Nations – Los Angeles Times

The Ebola menace has touched every part of life in Africa. So it’s no surprise that soccer has failed to escape its deadly grip.

And the disruption the virus has caused the sport has had many ripples, some of which could be felt for years.

In the last two weeks, former African champion Morocco was expelled from the continent’s most important tournament; Equatorial Guinea was reinstated after being kicked out for using an ineligible player in qualifying; and Cuba, which once sent combat troops to Africa, will now be sending doctors to combat Ebola at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.

That sequence of events began when Morocco, concerned about the spread of Ebola, asked Africa’s soccer governing federation to postpone January’s Cup of Nations for at least six months. There have been no reported cases of infection in Morocco but the country, which was to play host to the tournament, feared visiting fans might bring the disease with them.

Morocco’s argument was undermined by the fact that it had no problem allowing Guinea, among the countries hit hardest by Ebola, to play three qualifiers in Casablanca. Nor did the country move to delay next month’s FIFA Club World Cup, a seven-country tournament that will be played in Rabat and Marrakesh

So with millions of dollars of broadcast and sponsorship dollars at stake, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) acted swiftly and harshly, banning Morocco from the 2015 and 2017 tournaments, and shifting this year’s competition to Equatorial Guinea.

“Once you postpone this event, it will open the door for everybody to ask for a delay of any competition, and we will no longer be credible and cannot organize anything,” federation President Issa Hayatou said. “When we see also that Morocco is in the process of organizing the FIFA Club World Cup, only 25 days before the Africa Cup of Nations, you understand that this is an argument that must be quickly erased.”

But if the CAF’s censure of Morocco was defensible, its decision to move the 16-team tournament to Equatorial Guinea was far more difficult to justify.

Ebola also affects soccer’s Africa Cup of Nations – Los Angeles Times

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