Caf must postpone Afcon for sake of Africa

JOHANNESBURG - There has been talk and a lot of going forward and backwards regarding next year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals which are scheduled for Morocco.

The North African country has made it clear that the tournament will have to be postponed from the January/February calendar or else they will forego the right to host the continent’s biggest football showpiece which is held after every two years.

Morocco’s main concern is that because of the debilitating Ebola virus, it will be difficult for the country’s stretched health authorities to monitor the movement of people, some of whom might be affected by the contagious virus ravaging the African continent.

Their argument is that they are not prepared to put the entire country’s health system at risk for the sake of a soccer tournament.

On the other hand, the continent’s football governing body, Caf, insists that it has contractual obligations from its sponsors, soccer fans and several other stakeholders and postponing the tournament would set a bad precedence.

Caf’s contention is that the tournament must go ahead and if Morocco are reluctant to do so, will take that right and give it to any other willing country.

Morocco as a country is not willing to budge, setting up an unprecedented showdown between one of the strongest nation within Caf and the governing soccer body.

Among the countries that have been approached to fill in the gap in case Morocco pulls out are Ghana, Sudan, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa among others.

The later has already indicated that hosting the tournament for the second time running will make them look like the big brother of the continent; so they have told Caf politely that “thanks but No, thanks”.

Looking at the merits and demerits of cases being put on the table, one is forced to side with Morocco much as some want to water things down as outright racism on the side of the North Africans.

Fact is Africa as a continent is the least prepared continent to deal with natural disasters and the Ebola virus is already proving to be a headache among global nations.

So putting profits ahead of people’s health is incomprehensible. George Weah, one of the continent’s all-time soccer stars, has come out in full support of Morocco.

His argument is that we must postpone the January/February fiesta to allow the World Health Organisation to get to the root cause and possible cure for the virus.

I don’t think that is asking too much. The Ebola virus is real and causing untold suffering on the continent.

This week, a Russian club coach caused a stir when he hinted players from Africa might be carrying the virus but while this was highly insensitive such undertones have reverberated around the world when people talk of the Ebola virus.

A few weeks ago, a USA teacher returning from Africa was snubbed by his pupils although he was just returning from a vacation in Zambia, a country without any documented reports of the deadly disease.

That is how people dread this disease.

I fully concur with Morocco. The January contest must be postponed. It might be catastrophic for Caf to insist that the event goes ahead. Let Caf be responsible as a caring organisation. People’s health is more important than profits.

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