ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Another African Cup of Nations qualifier is in doubt because of the deadly Ebola virus after Ivory Coast’s football federation said Tuesday that it had been instructed by its government to cancel or move next month’s home game against Sierra Leone.
Ivory Coast has restrictions in place on travelers from Ebola-affected countries like Sierra Leone. Over 1,400 people have now died in an outbreak of the deadly virus in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria.
Ivory Coast Football Federation spokesman Eric Kacou said the government had advised that it would not allow the Sierra Leone team to enter for the Sept. 6 game in the country’s largest city, Abidjan, and other plans should be made.
“The authorities are taking no chances,” Kacou said.
Sierra Leone is also still trying to find a venue for its home ties in the final round of qualifying for next year’s African Cup after the Confederation of African Football said it won’t allow any games to be played in Sierra Leone or Guinea — two of the worst-hit Ebola countries — until mid-September at the earliest.
Guinea said it’ll play its first qualifier in neutral Morocco. Liberia is not involved in the qualifiers.
However, Africa’s top football body said other games should go ahead as planned.
CAF maintained that it is following advice from the World Health Organization, which it said doesn’t recommend a ban on travel to and from Ebola-affected countries. On that advice, CAF still wants countries to travel to Nigeria to play and allow travel by teams from Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Other countries are also concerned along with Ivory Coast.
Republic of Congo has expressed reservations over traveling to Nigeria — which has also recorded Ebola deaths — for its opening game on Sept. 6 and wants that match moved to another country. Nigeria is the African Cup’s defending champion.
The qualifiers run from Sept. 5 to Nov. 19 and will decide the 15 teams to play alongside host Morocco in Africa’s top football tournament early next year.