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Moroccan club Raja Casablanca are among the 2019/2020 CAF Champions League semi-finalists. © AFP STR

Football

CAF to discuss club fixtures amid virus spike in Morocco

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Sep 9 – African football chiefs will decide Thursday whether to go ahead with CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup matches in Morocco during September amid a coronavirus spike there.

The kingdom is scheduled to host the first legs of the Champions League semi-finals and the Confederation Cup ‘final four’ mini-tournament this month.

Confederation of African Football (CAF) officials are concerned after a rise in Covid-19 cases meant only one Moroccan league match has been played during the first two weeks of September.

At least 12 of the 16 Botola Pro 1 clubs reported positive cases, triggering an order that players must stay in hotels or sport centres rather than returning home after each match.

“A video conference meeting of the executive committee will address several important topics related to the football situation on the continent,” a CAF statement said.

Two senior CAF officials confirmed to AFP that the concluding stages of the Champions League and Confederation Cup competitions will be among the issues on the agenda.

Both Champions League semi-finals involve Moroccan and Egyptian clubs with Raja Casablanca playing Zamalek and Wydad Casablanca meeting Al Ahly.

The first legs are set for September 25 and 26 in Casablanca with the return matches in Egypt on October 2 and 3.

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Both Confederation Cup semi-finals are slated for September 22 with Hassania Agadir tackling fellow Moroccans Renaissance Berkane and Pyramids of Egypt confronting Horoya of Guinea.

– Travel difficulties –

Horoya, the only sub-Saharan club among the semi-finalists in the two competitions, have experienced difficulties with travel plans.

“We are considering numerous options to reach Morocco, but it is far from a straightforward situation,” said club president Soufiane Souare.

Ahly and Zamalek reportedly have different opinions on what should happen if CAF decide that the Champions League first legs cannot go ahead as planned in Morocco.

Zamalek president Mortada Mansour told the club website that he would prefer both legs of the semi-finals be played in Egypt rather than be postponed.

“I propose we play the home and away games of the Champions League semi-finals in Egypt. We welcome our fellow Moroccans, for whom we have all the love and appreciation,” he said.

An announcement on Al Ahly TV said the record eight-time African champions would not object to a delay.

“We were planning to play the semi-finals as per the scheduled dates, (but) human and health conditions are more important than a competition,” the Cairo club said.

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The semi-finals and finals of both competitions were originally scheduled for May, but could not be played because of the pandemic.

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