Morocco was formally ruled out as host of next year’s African Nations Cup as promised clarity over which country will host the tournament failed to emerge from a Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive committee meeting in Cairo on Tuesday.
The immediate future of the 16-team tournament, the showpiece of African football, remained unclear with no exact timetable for the next step in the bid to find an alternate host to Morocco which has also been kicked out of the competition.
Morocco’s removal as host followed the north African country’s request for a postponement of the January 17-February 8 Nations Cup over fears of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
CAF said it had received “some applications” from countries expressing a desire to step in as hosts on the scheduled dates, even though the practicalities of arranging a tournament of the size of the cup (known as the CAN) at such short notice seem daunting.
In an interview with Reporters CAF president Issa Hayatou stressed that the CAN could not be postponed for “several reasons,” one of which he cited as the inflexibility of French clubs in lending their players to the tournament.
CAF did not name the prospective candidates and there have been no public expressions of interest.
These applications are currently under review and the executive committee will finalise the selection of the successful national association shortly,” CAF said in a statement.
We didn’t abandon our African friends’
The lack of clarity merely added a new dimension to the speculation over the destiny of the tournament which is CAF’s main source of revenue and, if cancelled, could cost the organisation dearly.
Angola, Egypt, Gabon and Nigeria were the countries being touted as possible replacement hosts by African media following Tuesday’s statement.
Morocco believes thousands of travelling supporters from west Africa pose a risk and wanted a postponement of at least six months while the fight against Ebola intensified.
The majority of Moroccans think that protection from this terrible disease is better than organising any sport competition,” Moroccan sports radio host Amine Birouk told FRANCE 24’s Africa News on Tuesday. If a case of Ebola were to break out during the tournament, Birouk questioned who “would deal with the moral and material responsibility”.
Birouk stressed that Moroccans needed to make their African counterparts “understand our point of view” concerning concerns over Ebola.
We have to show that we didn’t abandon our friends from Africa,” he said.
Morocco has said since early October that its call for a postponement was “dictated by health reasons of the most dangerous kind, linked to the serious risk of the spread of the deadly Ebola pandemic.
The deadly Ebola virus has killed at least 4,960 people, mainly in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
CAF said last week it would resolve the future of the 2015 finals at Tuesday’s meeting in Cairo.
CAF also announced it would seek legal redress from Morocco based on its contractual agreement with the Royal Moroccan Football Federation which was signed in April.
Moroccan football is also likely to be heavily sanctioned, including a likely ban from future Nations Cup competitions. Birouk expected the ban to last two to four years.
In 2010 the tournament took place in Angola, when the Togo team were attacked by separatists, and in 2012 Gabon co-hosted with Equatorial Guinea !!!