Soccer is now a conduit for Ebola fears in Africa

Where to play?
Where to play?
Image: AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
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The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is impeding efforts to find a host for the continent’s biennial soccer championship.

South Africa on Monday became the latest country to pass on hosting the Africa Cup of Nations next January, because of fears that fans from countries devastated by Ebola will follow their teams to the tournament.

“We do not have a ready-made abundance of resources to be shifted to Afcon,” sports minister Fikile Mbalula told reporters. “We will share the responsibility to fight Ebola—we are not immune to that.”

The Confederation of African Football, an alliance of 16 nations that conducts the championship, has been sounding out members about hosting the gathering after Morocco threatened to withdraw, citing Ebola fears.

In September, the confederation barred Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea from hosting international matches. The three nations have been hit hard by the virus, which has caused more than 4,500 deaths worldwide.

Morocco reportedly has asked the federation to postpone the tournament, which is slated to start in January and run for three weeks. A pullout would earn Morocco a suspension and other sanctions.

Besides South Africa, the confederation reportedly has approached Ghana and Egypt about hosting. Tournament officials are slated to meet on November 2 to resolve the standoff.

Nigeria on Monday said it might be willing to host the tournament despite Ebola fears. “I think we’re interested,” Seyi Adewunmi, first vice president of the Nigerian Football Federation, reportedly told

On Monday, the World Health Organization declared Nigeria to be free of Ebola after the country went 42 days without any new cases.