The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has stripped the hosting rights for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations from Morocco, and ejected its national team from the tournament, following the refusal of the country’s government to stage the event in its specified dates due to the Ebola crisis.
The CAF has been engaged in a game of brinkmanship with Moroccan authorities over the past month after the government initially stated that it would not keep to the January 15 until February 8 hosting dates for the Cup of Nations. The Moroccan government on Saturday maintained its stance over the tournament to leave the CAF with the prospect of either accepting the request to postpone or finding a new host nation.
The CAF last week confirmed that it would not change the dates of its showpiece national team tournament despite the outbreak of Ebola across the continent and called on host nation Morocco to make a final decision about staging the event by November 8. The Moroccan Ministry of Sport (MJS) responded by maintaining that it was still seeking that the tournament be put back a year.
Following a meeting today (Tuesday) in Cairo, the CAF Executive Committee said it had “taken note” of the response from the MJS, adding that it will remove the tournament from Morocco due to its commitment to keep the tournament in its scheduled dates.
The CAF said: “The Organising Committee of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations will later apply the statutory provisions that are required due to a breach of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation regulatory and contractual provisions, including those set out in the Host Association Agreement signed between CAF and the Royal Moroccan Football Federation in April 2014.”
It added: “Accordingly, and following the refusal of the Moroccan party, the Executive Committee has decided that the national team of Morocco is automatically disqualified and will not take part in the 30th edition of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations in 2015.”
Moroccan authorities had been seeking a postponement of the event due to the outbreak of Ebola, which has so far claimed almost 5,000 lives – mostly in West Africa. The CAF last week outlined its position in a six-point plan. The CAF said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) in August enforced an order that suspended all CAF competition in countries most affected by Ebola in order to slow the spread of the virus. The CAF also noted that the WHO has at no stage recommended that the national team tournament be suspended due to the outbreak.
In addition, the CAF pointed out that Ebola-free Morocco will stage the Fifa Club World Cup competition just weeks before it is due to host the Cup of Nations. Fifa, the sport’s global governing body, has so far made no suggestion that it will postpone the tournament due to the outbreak of the virus.
The CAF now faces the difficult task of reassigning its event at short notice. South Africa, along with six other African countries, were said to have been approached by CAF to stage the tournament should Morocco withdraw its hosting rights.
Ghana yesterday (Monday) became the latest country to state it cannot step in, while South Africa, Egypt, Sudan and Ghana have all indicated they are unwilling to replace Morocco, partly because of Ebola. Nigeria and Angola have also been linked as possible replacement destinations for the tournament.