Cape Town, Reuters—Morocco have played down talk of next year’s African Nations Cup being cancelled, while South Africa gave a lukewarm response on Friday to a suggestion they could step in as hosts.
Morocco stunned African football last week when they asked that the January 17–February 8 tournament be postponed overs fears that traveling supporters could put the country at greater risk from the Ebola epidemic.
The request was immediately rejected by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Yet a letter sent by the governing body to other countries this week, asking if they could stand in as hosts, sparked a flurry of erroneous reports about the tournament being cancelled.
Morocco’s sports minister has now claimed his country does not want to jeopardize the tournament but would like to discuss the potential health implications with CAF.
“There is no way we are talking about the cancellation of the tournament,” Mohammed Ouzzine told Hespress TV.
“We are talking with CAF to find a solution. We are concerned about what happens in Africa because we are part of this continent and we are proud to be a part of it,” he said.
CAF president Issa Hayatou is set to meet Moroccan authorities next month to discuss the request.
African football’s governing body this week asked seven countries whether they would be able to step in at the last minute and host the 16-team event should Morocco withdraw.
South Africa gave a lukewarm response. “There are just too many factors to consider for South Africa if we are to host a tournament of this magnitude,” said a statement from sports minister Fikile Mbalula.
“Our major concern is the cost implication of such a tournament when South Africa is currently grappling with its own fiscal challenges.
“A tournament of this nature, if planned outside the normal budgetary cycle, will require budgetary adjustments, a process that is currently not an option.
“The tournament, as is also a concern for Morocco, may also pose a challenge on how we can grapple with the Ebola challenge engulfing the continent at the moment,” he added.
South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan said at a Friday news conference in Johannesburg: “The issue being raised whether South Africa is the Plan B is neither here nor there because Morocco are the official hosts. That talk of us being Plan B is unfair.”
Nearly 4,500 people have died from the worst Ebola outbreak on record, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.