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Angola say no to CAF, search goes on

CHIANZI-STADIUMPARIS, November 13- Angola announced on Wednesday they were not interested in replacing Morocco as eleventh hour hosts of the crisis-hit 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

Angola’s decision leaves three potential candidates  – Egypt, Gabon and Nigeria – to put on the continental showcase.

Morocco were stripped of the right to host it after insisting on a postponement, citing as their reason the deadly Ebola epidemic.

Morocco’s stance irked organisers the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

The federation’s president, Issa Hayatou, told France24: “To postpone the Africa Cup of Nations would be like stopping African football dead.”

“Once you postpone this event, it will open the door for everybody to ask for a delay of any competition and we will no longer be credible,” added the 68-year-old Cameroonian who has been in office since 1988. 

Angola had emerged as one of the front runners to come to the aid of the troubled 2015 Nations Cup which is due to start in two months time, on January 17.

The oil-rich state’s insistence that they were not interested in hosting a competition they staged in 2010 came from Joao Lusevikueno, vice president of the Angolan football federation.

He told AFP by telephone from Luanda: “Angola is not going to host the competition, we haven’t presented our candidature and it is not our intention to do so.”

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He added that to step in and organise a competition of this scale in two months — it is due to start on January 17 — was “virtually impossible”.

Angola’s staging of the 2010 Nations Cup was marred by the attack on the Togo team bus by separatists in the restless enclave of Cabinda which killed two people.

With Angola out of the picture the countries thought to be still in contention for taking over from Morocco as 2015 hosts are multiple African champions Egypt, Gabon, which co-hosted the 2012 edition with Equatorial Guinea, and reigning champions Nigeria.

Organisers the Confederation of African Football are due to announce the next hosts “in two or three days” Hayatou said.

The Cup was thrown into jeopardy in early October when Morocco first called for a delay.

CAF however eventually lost patience with the north African country and on Tuesday barred them out as hosts and participants with a heavy fine likely to follow. 

The fact that Morocco are also set to host the Club World Cup, only 25 days before the scheduled January 17 kickoff, threw further doubts over Morocco’s reasons prompting Hayatou and his members to pull the plug.

Rumours that the three-week football feast could be moved outside Africa with 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar an unprecedented option were quickly dismissed by Qatar Football Association vice-president Saud al-Muhannadin. 

“It is illogical, the news is false.” he told AFP.

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Moroccan sports minister Mohamed Ouzzine defended their stance and said they had simply asked for a postponement, until the Ebola disease was brought under control. 

“The CAF statement said we refuse to organise the Nations Cup, and it’s wrong. We want the tournament in our country, but we maintain our demand to postpone it,” Ouzzine told parliament. 

“The WHO (World Health Organisation) says that every country has the right to take the necessary measures to protect its citizens. The whole world is incapable to find some treatment or some solution for that disease (Ebola), so isn’t it a force majeure?

“We can talk about sanctions now, but we should not forget what would happen in case we have not taken our decision.”

CAF executive committee member Constant Omari defended the decision to strip the 1976 winners of the right to stage what would have been their second tournament, after 1988, when they reached the semi-finals. 

“The CAF put no pressure on Morocco but they are a member who belong to the CAN (Nations Cup). We signed an agreement that the CAN would be organised between January 17 and February 8 and there was no talk of postponement during the inspections. 

“Then two months before the tournament, Morocco decide they want to change the dates.

“These dates have not been decided randomly, it is a season when all of Africa has a period of more or less dry weather. We have incorporated these dates into the universal FIFA calendar and it is our showcase event.” 

The CAF also confirmed that qualification matches for the tournament will go ahead as planned on November 14-15 with the final round of matches set four days later. 

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The Ebola disease has claimed almost 5,000 lives, essentially in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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