Morocco have asked the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to move the 2015 African Cup until the following year.
This follows a final deadline by the continent’s football governing body to the North Africans asking them to make a decision by Saturday.
Morocco’s statement, exclusively seen by Citi Sports, reads: “The Kingdom of Morocco requests that the 2015 edition of the African Cup of Nations be played in 2016.”
The release was from the Moroccan Ministry of Sport and Youth and is four pages long. The full report goes into exacting detail about why the Kingdom cannot host the tournament, with the principal reason being the deadly Ebola virus disease.
Citi Sports sources say CAF will respond on November 11.
— Gary Al-Smith (@garyalsmith) November 8, 2014
The host nation want to postpone the January 17-February 8 tournament because of the deadly virus, but the CAF has been adamant and refused to listen to a change of dates.
CAF accused Morocco of being alarmist, but the Kingdom say they fear the threat tens of thousands of visitors from west Africa can bring due to the widespread nature of the disease there.
Almost 5,000 have died due to the virus in west Africa.[contextly_sidebar id=”dDNDUPcMbtqCU7uTONUK3f7YksdEafP7″] The statement on Saturday says in part that “Morocco disagree heavily that only 1000 fans from sub-Sahara Africa will travel to the country and that only fans from North Africa would travel to the tournament.”
But the confederation has always maintained that only one country where Ebola has proven deadly, Guinea, are in the running to qualify.
“We understand the precaution a sovereign state has to take but it’s important not to stigmatise the virus and increase the fear of it, rather be factual about how it can be transmitted from one place to the other while taking all necessary measures,” said CAF general secretary Hicham El Amrani this week.
The statement from Morocco also discusses the fact that the Club World Cup will go ahead in December, a fact that has angered many CAF supporters. But Morocco reiterates that the Fifa-organised event has a markedly less risk of spreading Ebola, despite expecting fans from Spain, where the disease has been confirmed to have reached.
The tourism factor
Tourist receipts in 2012 for Morocco totalled US$8.49 billion for the kingdom, according to Index Mundi.
A Moroccan official tells Citi Sports: “You cannot compare the threat of an Afcon to bring Ebola to that of the Club World Cup. That’s just not objective.” This call received a massive boost days ago, when former World Player of the Year George Weah supported a postponement.
“I hail from a country where Ebola has killed thousands of people. So the best thing to do is to take precautions. If Morocco need time to put precautionary plans in place to ensure that those players and officials that would come for the Afcon are safe, then let’s give the country time to achieve this,” Weah told reporters in Abuja.
Officials from CAF tell Citi Sports’ editor Gary Al-Smith after their Saturday meeting of their “profound disappointment in Morocco, who we really believe have the capacity to deal with all the threats they say they are afraid of.”
But Morocco have had tremendous support from their citizens, who know how much the nation makes from tourism.
“We cannot risk a three-week event for the benefit tourism gives our economy,” another Moroccan FA official told Citi Sports.
It is almost certain that CAF will heavily sanction Morocco, but sources say CAF are more concerned about getting another venue for the impending tournament.
No names have been mentioned in the corridors of power, with Ghana and South Africa openly showing their displeasure at being associated with the event. It is thought that Angola and Nigeria may perhaps be late considerations.
There is a real possibility that Afcon 2015 will not come off at all, because CAF has been unable to get a lot of public declarations of interest from other countries it has approached to step in as emergency hosts.
Now that Morocco have officially withdrawn, the very glaring absence of hosts could force the event to be called off.
That would be catastrophic for the African football governing body, because the tournament is the major contributor of its income through marketing and TV rights.
By: Gary Al-Smith/citifmonline.com/Ghana