Will Ebola Stop the African Cup of Nations?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 8/27/2014 01:30:00 AM
Another Ebola Victim? The 2015 African Cup of Nations.
It's only a game, the refrain goes when people take football too seriously. In Africa, though, it may be a game of life and death. Recently, a player died from being hit by a rock thrown at the end of a match. Now, the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus for which there is no cure is threatening to stop the continent's most prestigious international tournament, the African Cup of Nations. There always seems to be interesting IPE-ish stuff going on with this tournament. Four years ago, I discussed how China was using "football diplomacy" by building stadiums for Angola to host the 2010 tournament.

For the 2015 tournament in Morocco, things are in disarray, to put it mildly. The proximate cause is safety fears amidst Ebola outbreaks in a number of participating nations. We are currently in the qualifying stages for the tournament. Some nations refuse to play other teams coming from Ebola-hit nations. Conversely, Ebola-hit nations' teams are being turned down when asking for permission to play their qualifying matches elsewhere:
Africa’s football authorities are wrestling with difficult decisions as they try to prevent their sport becoming a vector for spreading the Ebola virus. With the next round of qualifiers for the Africa Cup of Nations fast approaching, some matches have already been moved and others are in limbo while some teams have been punished for refusing to play in locations the African Football Confederation (CAF) deems safe or against teams from Ebola-hit nations.

The problems started for CAF at the end of July when the Ministry of Health in the Seychelles refused to allow the team into the country from Sierra Leone, where the virus has killed at least 374 people, for an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match. Seychelles forfeited the game and Sierra Leone advanced to the next round. With six rounds of Africa Nations qualifying scheduled between September 5 and November 19, CAF took the initiative. In mid-August it decided to forbid matches in Guinea and Liberia as well as Sierra Leone, where the government had already banned football games.

CAF wrote to its 54 members that despite Ebola it planned to “maintain its calendar of matches across the African continent with the exception of three countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where there have been a significant number of cases.” The Confederation said it had taken the decision after consultations with the World Health Organisation. CAF asked "the three nations to move their matches to neutral countries."
I've heard of "stateless people"; with Ebola, we have "stateless football teams":
For Liberia the impact of this decision is limited as it has already been eliminated. Guinea and Sierra Leone, on the other hand, face serious problems finding countries prepared to offer their teams a temporary home. Guinea asked Senegal if it could play in Dakar. The Senegalese said no. Last week, after several days of negotiations, Moroccan authorities agreed to let Guinea play their home game against Togo in the Mohammed V stadium in Casablanca on September 5.

For Sierra Leone the situation is more complicated. They are scheduled to travel to Ivory Coast, a country which is not on CAF’s banned list, on 6 September. But last week the Ivorian Sports Ministry announced that it had forbidden all sports competitions in the country. The Ivorian football authorities have not yet said whether they will relocate the match or postpone it.

Sierra Leone, meanwhile, have held talks with Ghana about moving their home matches to Accra. The response has not been encouraging. The Ghana Football Association released a statement saying: "Though keen on offering its support, the GFA are uncertain about the health implications for the country."
Make no mistale: Ebola's outbreak is affecting all sorts of other social phenomena, too.