Morocco is set to withdraw as host of next year’s Africa Cup of Nations because of fears it will lead to a further spread of the Ebola virus, according to reports, with Ghana and South Africa among the countries mentioned as potential replacements.
Morocco’s Government wrote to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) last week asking for the tournament, scheduled for January 17 to February 8, to be postponed.
CAF said earlier this week it was not planning to reschedule the competition, but would discuss the postponement request.
SuperSport is reporting a source at the Moroccan Government’s Ministry of Sports indicating the country’s withdrawal as hosts.
“Since CAF rejected all our requests and suggestions then we are forced to withdraw from hosting Afcon (Africa Cup of Nations) 2015 with immediate effect to preserve the safety of our citizens and for that we are prepared to take any consequences that comes with our actions,” the source is quote as saying.
CAF had reportedly been given three options by the country’s football federation: let them host the 2017 event, which currently has seven nations bidding to stage it; postpone the tournament by a year; or a full withdrawal.
No response has been received to that latest request, according to reports.
If Morocco does officially withdraw, it is likely to face stiff sanctions from the CAF which could include suspensions for the national team and clubs.
The Ebola virus, which emanated in the west of Africa in March, has killed more than 4,000 people.
In response to the outbreak, CAF has moved qualifying matches for the tournament out of Sierra Leone and Guinea – two of the countries struggling to contain the outbreak.
Guinea are playing their qualifying matches in Casablanca, Morocco, and Sierra Leone in Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon.
South Africa, hosts of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, could step in to stage next year’s edition and have reportedly already held talks with CAF over doing so.
Morocco was awarded the tournament in January 2011.
Stadiums in Rabat, Tangier, Marrakech and Agadir were due to stage matches.
CAF has not yet responded to the reports but both Ghana and South Africa have reportedly claimed they have been approached to possibly step in.