Ebola, Security Scare: Casting shadow over 2015 Nations Cup qualifiers
Harare – Against a depressing background of concerns over the Ebola outbreak and growing insecurity in some countries, the race for a place at the 2015 Nations Cup resumes across Africa this weekend with football chiefs praying that everything will pass without incident.
Ebola has already forced the Confederation of African Football (CAF) chiefs to move matches from Guinea and Sierra Leone, the worst-hit countries on the continent, elsewhere with Guinea playing in the Moroccan city of Casablanca.
But with concerns that the Ebola outbreak has spread to Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who are also involved in the 2015 Nations Cup qualifiers and were scheduled to host at the weekend, there have been requests from the travelling teams for CAF to also move those matches elsewhere.
Congo (Brazzaville), who were only reinstated into the qualifiers after Rwanda were expelled for fielding an ineligible player, have registered their concerns about travelling to Nigeria.
Former African champions Cameroon have also expressed their reservations about travelling to play in the DRC, this weekend, where a different strain of the Ebola virus has been detected.
But it is not only health concerns that are stalking the start of the group qualifiers of the 2015 Nations Cup.
Security concerns in Algeria, where a football star was struck and killed by a missile thrown from the crowd that forced the country to suspend their top-flight league programme, have also forced Mali to ask CAF to move their match elsewhere.
But CAF said the first round matches this weekend will go ahead as scheduled, in the countries earmarked to host them, despite the health and security concerns, although the African football chiefs revealed that they will review the situation later this month.
“CAF will reassess the situation in mid-September in order to allow or not these affected countries to receive teams and organise CAF matches and competitions,” CAF said in a statement.
“It is extremely important that every federation, whose country is affected by the virus, should ensure that their respective delegations travelling abroad can be examined before their departure in order to ensure that no member can transmit Ebola.
“On the other hand, each national association receiving delegations is obliged to communicate all the necessary information delivered by health authorities to ensure the reception of teams and officials from various countries, including those from affected countries, and to proceed, if necessary, to additional checks at arrival points if required.”
South Africa, who leads a group of Southern African countries in the quest for a place in Morocco next year, will charter a 100-seater plane to Khartoum this week for their first group game against Sudan.
The South Africans found themselves in a difficult situation of having to travel to play in Sudan, just a few days before they also have a home tie against African champions Nigeria next Wednesday.
Safa president, Danny Jordaan, who is supervising his team’s first Nations Cup campaign, feels that a chartered plane will help them avoid the disruptions that come with flying on commercial flights.
“We had to be proactive with such a hectic schedule, which requires teams to play back-to-back matches,” Jordaan said in comments carried on the official CAF website.
“Knowing how unreliable flights on the continent can be, we didn’t want to disadvantage our team by, at times spending hours in transit to our destination or on the way back home.
“In this case, we decided that we get into the country where we play away matches and get into the plane straight after the match.
“It allows players not to be frustrated by spending long hours in transit at airports. Getting a chartered plane will also help us travel with a considerable number of supporters – which is critical in away matches.”
Zambia and Mozambique clash in a southern African derby, Botswana make the long trip to Tunisia, Angola are away in Gabon, Lesotho, with their country having been rocked by an alleged coup attempt, are in Burkina Faso while Malawi travel to Mali.