The national soccer team of Ebola-hit Guinea will prepare for next month’s African Nations Cup finals in Morocco, the country that decided not to host the tournament for fear of the spread of the deadly virus.
The Guinea Football Federation said on Wednesday the side, whose players come almost exclusively from clubs in Europe, will play Morocco’s under-23 side in El Jadida on January 10 and fellow Nations Cup finalists Senegal in Casablanca three days later.
The squad will then travel to Equatorial Guinea, who became the emergency hosts of the 16-team continental championship after Morocco first asked for a postponement and were then stripped of the tournament. Guinea is one of only three countries competing at the finals to have reported cases of Ebola, with Mali and Senegal the others but with only isolated incidents.
There have been 2,571 reported cases in Guinea, according to the latest World Health Organization figures. The death toll from Ebola in West Africa has risen to 7,573. Guinea, where the outbreak began a year ago, was banned from hosting matches in the qualifying competition from September to November because of Ebola and the national team played all their ‘home’ matches in Casablanca. The Moroccan stance, of welcoming the presence of a team from a country hard hit by the epidemic while not wanting to host the tournament, led an irritated Confederation of African Football (CAF) to move the finals, reports Reuters.
Morocco on Monday met CAF officials in Cairo in an effort to assuage a potential ban from future Nations Cup tournaments. At the finals, which start on January 17, Guinea compete in Group D against Cameroon, the Cote d’Ivoire and Mali.