AFRICANGLOBE – Equatorial Guinea, who were disqualified from the preliminary rounds of the Africa Cup of Nations, are to replace Morocco as hosts of the 2015 event.
Morocco wanted the tournament postponed over alarmist fears of a spread of the Ebola virus but the Confederation of African Football (Caf) refused andon Tuesday stripped them of the hosting rights and kicked them out of the competition.
Oil rich Equatorial Guinea hosted the 2012 finals with their neighbour Gabon but will now take on the 16-team tournament alone, from 17 January to 8 February.
Equatorial Guinea were disqualified from the preliminaries in August after fielding an ineligible player.
Caf said the decision on the new host was made after a meeting in Malabo on Friday between Equatorial Guinea’s president, Teodoro Obiang, and the Caf president, Issa Hayatou.
“The head of state of Equatorial Guinea agreed to host the competition. As a result the Caf executive committee confirm that the tournament will go ahead and Equatorial Guinea will compete as the host nation,” a statement from African football’s governing body read.
Matches will be held at four venues in Bata, Ebebiyín, Mongomo and the capital, Malabo. In 2012 the tournament used stadiums in Malabo and Bata and the draw for the 2015 finals will be in Malabo on 3 December. “Caf wishes to express its sincere thanks to the Equatorial Guinean people, its government and particularly president Obiang,” the statement concluded.
Morocco tried to stigmatize fans and players from west Africa by claiming they might spread the Ebola virus but after a marathon meeting of Caf in Cairo this week officials rejected their request for a postponement and expelled them from the competition. Marouane Chamakh of Crystal Palace, Adel Taarabt of QPR and Oussama Assaidi, on loan at Stoke from Liverpool, are Premier League players who will now miss out on playing for Morocco.
Caf would have lost millions of dollars in revenue had the competition been postponed. Morocco claimed that health concerns should be paramount given the tiny amount of people affected by Ebola in west Africa.
Hayatou was determined to press ahead, saying: “Once you postpone this event it will open the door for everybody to ask for a delay of any competition and we will no longer be credible.”
Manchester City’s Yaya Touré had also stressed the importance of the tournament continuing. “Me, I’m not really afraid,” the Ivory Coast midfielder told a French radio station earlier this month. “A very strong psychosis exists about this epidemic. The Cup is very important for Africa. It needs to take place.”