The ravaging Ebola disease seems to be threatening every aspect of life in most West African countries and it looks like football may not be spared.
Red flags have started flying even ahead of the start of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers next month. With various national teams criss-crossing the continent to honour matches and with the threat of the incurable disease lurking, many countries, including Ghana, are concerned about the risk travelling around could pose to their teams.
Ghana’s Black Stars are scheduled to play Uganda at home on September 6, travel to Togo on September 10 and then to Guinea on October 11 in their Group E fixtures, and ahead of the matches, the Ghana Football Association (GFA) is weighing the option of travelling to honour the matches or ask the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to move some of their away matches in the sub-region to neutral and safe venues, with Guinea as one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic with over 360 reported fatalities so far.
GFA president, Kwesi Nyantakyi, in an interview with the Graphic Sports, noted that the situation was a source of concern for the FA and it would, therefore, seek advice from the sport’s continental body, CAF.
“Yes, like everyone else, we are concerned. But it is not for us to decide whether we will travel or not. There is a procedure for that. We will voice out our concern to CAF and then its medical committee will also assess the situation and advise us accordingly.
“Also, we will have a discussion with the government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports and for their advice. Indeed, all stakeholders’ input will be considered in arriving at a decision,” Mr Nyantakyi said.
Asked if the team would consider travelling for the away matches on the day of the match, play and then return home immediately, the FA president said: “Whichever way, there is a risk and that is why it will be important to seek advice at all levels.
“Thankfully, we don’t have to travel immediately and we hope that by the time we have to travel, there would have been a solution.”
“The qualifiers start at the same time that the European leagues are also on. The preparations will, therefore, be the same as in the past. We will camp five days to the match and prepare,” Nyantakyi explained.
Ghana is not the only side worried about the Ebola scare. Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroun and DR Congo in Group D have all expressed concern and are asking CAF to move Sierra Leone’s home matches to neutral venues.
Already, Liberia, which has been hard hit by the disease, has suspended all football activities just like Sierra Leone, while Seychelles last week declined to host Sierra Leone for the second leg of their scheduled preliminary qualifier.