2015 Nations Cup: Morocco Stripped, Disqualified

Morocco were officially stripped of the right to host the African Nations Cup next year, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) said on Tuesday.

It has also disqualified Morocco from playing in the finals, which CAF said would go ahead.

The regional soccer governing body said it had received several offers from countries to step in as hosts for the tournament on the scheduled dates of January 17 – February 8.

Morocco wanted a postponement over Ebola virus fears but this was rejected by CAF.

A total of 28 teams are still chasing spots at the tournament in two more preliminary rounds, with qualification matches expected to continue this Friday. 

Global health authorities are struggling to contain the world’s worst Ebola epidemic since the disease was identified in 1976, with cases reaching the United States and Spain from Africa.

Morocco noted that CAF held Nations Cups in 2012 and 2013 when it switched from hosting the event in even to odd years.

CAF gets most of its revenue from the tournament’s television and marketing rights and have previously cited a packed calendar for the refusal to consider a June date or a move to early 2016.

The organisation also said Morocco’s concerns are alarmist, pointing out that Nations Cup tournaments do not attract large traveling support because few African fans have the resources to follow their teams.

Algeria and the Cape Verde Islands have already secured their berths for 2015.

South Africa has maintained it is not ready to host the tournament in January if Morocco withdraws because of the Ebola epidemic 

Defending champions Nigeria and other heavyweights like Egypt, the Ivory Coast and 2012 winners Zambia, face a watershed weekend in their battle to stay in contention to make the final field.

Nigeria have coach Stephen Keshi back after uncertainty over his future, while the Ivory Coast have turned to veteran talent to try and revive their hopes, but former captain Didier Zokora, recalled despite announcing his international retirement in August, has turned down a surprise call-up for the matches in Abidjan against Sierra Leone and Cameroon.

Egypt have an injury depleted squad as they need to beat Senegal in Cairo on Saturday and Tunisia away next week.

Zambia have purged much of the squad that won them the continental title in 2012 as they have struggled to get going in their group.

Most squads assembled on Monday as a large chunk of players travelled south after weekend club commitments at their European clubs.

South Africa has maintained it is not ready to host the tournament in January if Morocco withdraws because of the Ebola epidemic, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said.

This, after CAF had reportedly approached South Africa, Ghana and five others countries.

But the Minister tweeted: “Hosting AFCON (Africa Cup of Nations) is a NO NO.”

He told South African media that the country had a responsibility to help fight to help fight the Ebola epidemic that has killed more than 5 000 people, mainly in West Africa, with the UN predicting a surge in deaths and cases.

“Even before taking the matter to cabinet, I can tell you unambiguously and categorically that hosting is a no no,” he told South African media.

 “We do not have a ready-made abundance of resources to be shifted to AFCON. We did it (host the 2013 AFCON) in solidarity with Libya last year. Our budget cycle will not allow us to host the (2015) AFCON. It is totally impossible.”