The Ivory Coast’s National Team may be forced by the Ivorian Government to forfeit their first qualification match for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, due to fear of exposing the team and their country to the Ebola virus. Government officials for Ivory Coast are stating their refusal to let the team travel to Abidjan to play against Sierra Leone, and as a result the country would be forced to miss the Cup of Nations tournament. The Government has stated their interest in moving the match or Les Éléphants will not be present.
The Confederation of Africa football spoke to the BBC about the dispute, stating “If a country forfeits one qualifier, they will be disqualified from the championship.” However the CAF stated on Thursday that the game will go on as planned in Abidjan.
As one of the six African nations currently exposed to Ebola, Sierra Leone has named players to their national team who play outside the country in order to help reduce the risk of exposure to their opponents. The country has also called off all matches scheduled to be played within the country indefinitely, or at least until an answer to the Ebola virus has been found.
“Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia remain the only countries required to relocate their fixtures to neutral territories as a result of the situation of the Ebola virus as stated in our circular to member countries on 12th August, 2014.”
Ivory Coast has had a successful history at the Africa Cup of Nations, winning the tournament in 1992, finishing second twice and finishing third four times. Recent success and improved player quality has helped as well but missing the 2015 tournament will be the first time Les Éléphants have not qualified since 2004.
The deadly virus began gaining attention from major media outlets months ago partially due to a climbing death toll, and as a result could impact the way the Africa Cup of Nations will be played in 2015. The tournament is set to take place in Morocco beginning on January 17th and ending on February 8th next year, but conditions in Africa are not improving. The Prevention Direction at the Center for Disease Control, Tom Frieden told the Washington Post, “It’s even worse than I’d feared,” Frieden told CNN. “Every day this outbreak goes on, it increases the risk for another export to another country.”