Things might not be so rosy at the Africa Cup this year thanks to fears of Ebola. The executive committee of the African soccer club Caf will meet on November 2 in Algiers. The Moroccan club is considering cancelling the 2015 Africa Cup, which was scheduled to take place January 17 to February 8 due to fear of an outbreak of Ebola in their country.
The country is so worried that the Caf has been requested to postpone the tournament while authorities prepare to handle a possible epidemic.
The Africa Cup’s alternate hosts, South Africa, Algeria, and Tunisia, are equipped for the games but are also afraid of Ebola spreading into their countries. Caf does not welcome the idea of postponing the matches either, because, as the organization stated: “The Africa Cup has not been postponed since 1975.”
While the dimensions of any danger posed by Ebola for international soccer are unclear, the social fallout on the players is evident.
Sierra Leone team members recently reported humiliating episodes of discrimination at international games to The New York Times. Last week, the team was booked in its own hotel when they played in Cameroon due to complaints from other guests. During trainings, selected players were greeted with shouts of “Ebola.”
“You feel like trash,” replacement guard John Trye said. During a scheduled match, their rivals, the Ivory Coast, refused to shake their hands. Jerseys were not swapped as is customary after a match.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, mid-field player Michael Lahoud reported that children ran away from him screaming and during the whole match, spectators ridiculed and booed them.
West African athletes are also discriminated against elsewhere using Ebola as a justification. At the beginning of September, during the wrestling championships in Uzbekistan, the contestants from Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Congo and Nigeria were simply excluded from the matches, and not allowed into the preliminary medical exams.
The reality is that to date, fewer than 20 cases of Ebola have been treated outside West Africa. This was reported in a recent New York Times article based on reports collected by U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders and other agencies.
Meanwhile, in West Africa itself -- mostly in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria -- the death toll has risen to nearly 4,500.