Ebola virus epidemic strikes yet another blow against African soccer

By Hilton Yip Source:Global Times Published: 2014-10-20 23:18:07

It is unfortunate in international soccer that Africa has often failed to live up to its potential.

The continent boasts some of the world's most talented players, a lot of passionate fans and soccer is widely played and watched. Yet its countries have often underperformed on the world stage, while beset by myriad controversies like not paying players, mismanagement and bureaucratic tomfoolery. As if all of this was not enough, a more "natural" problem is threatening to derail African soccer in the near future.

Last week saw 2015 African Cup of Nations qualifiers played during the international break. However, the tournament itself may not even take place, due to the Ebola virus. Host Morocco asked the continental soccer body CAF to postpone the event because it is worried about having to monitor for the disease with the huge numbers of fans who will be coming from all over Africa for the tournament.

It is a reasonable request, because the Ebola epidemic, which has killed over 4,500, has ravaged West Africa and is giving even developed nations like the United States fits.

Of course, this being African soccer, there is a bit of confusion. It was earlier reported that Morocco sent a letter to the continental body asking for the event, scheduled for January, to be postponed or moved to another country, with CAF agreeing to discuss this in a meeting in November. How­ever, a report in the Independent on Thursday said Morocco has ­officially withdrawn as host.

CAF is insisting that the tournament takes place as scheduled. It is looking to a few other nations to serve as hosts, but one, South Africa, is reportedly not so eager to do so.

Morocco's suggestion to postpone the African Cup next year might be the most practical move. This will deprive ­Africa of its showcase, but given the next one is in three years' time in 2017, it is not such a big loss. Lives are at stake and no country can risk an Ebola outbreak during a major tournament with fans from all over the continent.

The CAF needs to get things straight regarding the tournament, otherwise it will be the latest example of African soccer mismanagement.

The author is an editor with the Global Times. hiltonyip@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: Extra Time

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