New hosts for the 2015 African Nations Cup will be named within three days after Morocco was ruled out amid fears of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) said on Wednesday.
CAF president Issa Hayatou said the regional governing body would talk to countries who were interested in taking over the January 17 to February 8 finals and expected a quick resolution amid suggestions Qatar had been sounded out about hosting the event.
Speaking to France 24, Hayatou also reiterated CAF’s stance that by giving in to Morocco’s request to have the date of the tournament moved it would set an unwanted precedent.
“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,” Hayatou said.
“We will hurt our sponsors and partners. Everyone will say we are not ready and finally it is CAF that will pay the price. That is what I told the Moroccans.
“We cannot sign our death warrant because if we postpone this event it will be very deadly for African football. For 57 years, we have patiently built this house, which today is the pride of all Africans.
“They have this festival every two years and we are not about to leave the opportunity to anyone to destroy the work we have patiently developed over the years.
“I cannot tell you where it will be played. All I can tell you is that it will take place.”
Angola, Egypt, Gabon and Nigeria were the countries being touted as possible replacement hosts by African media.
French sports daily L’Equipe suggested on Wednesday that 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar could also be set to help.
Morocco believes thousands of travelling supporters from West Africa pose a risk and wanted a postponement of at least six months while the fight against Ebola intensified.
The virus has killed at least 4,950 people in the world’s worst Ebola epidemic since the disease was identified in 1976.
CAF announced it would seek legal redress from Morocco based on its contractual agreement with the Royal Moroccan Football Federation which was signed in April.
Moroccan football is also likely to be heavily sanctioned, including a likely ban from future Nations Cup competitions, reports Reuters.
However, the Moroccan Sports Minister Mohamed Ouzzine told MPs on Tuesday in a parliamentary debate after the CAF decision that the country had not broken its contract.
“Morocco has not breached any contract because of the force majeure. We will not rush to answer, but everyone should know that we are prepared for all eventualities,” he said.
“The WHO (World Health Organisation) says that every country has the right to take the necessary measures to protect its citizens… The whole world is incapable to find some treatment or some solution for that disease (Ebola), so isn’t it a force majeure?”
“The CAF statement said we refuse to organise the competition, and it’s wrong. We want the tournament in our country, but we maintain our demand to postpone it.”
“We can talk about sanctions now, but we should not forget what would happen in case we have not taken our decision.”