Liberia Wants Change of Venue Due to Ebola in DR Congo
Monrovia – The Liberia Football Association (LFA) has requested the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to change the venue for its crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier with DR Congo on 24 March.
The match is scheduled for the Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa with Liberia second in Group G on seven points and DR Congo on six points.
It is the only group where all four teams, including Zimbabwe, who have eight points and Congo Brazzaville, who have five points, can still qualify for the expanded finals in Egypt, which kicks-off in June.
But Liberian football authority is troubled by the current Ebola situation in DR Congo, which is reaching alarming proportions, thereby reminding it of their ugly past with the disease.
“Based on our experience with Ebola in Liberia and the deaths it brought to our brothers and sisters, we believe this could cause a great psychological impact on the minds of our players, which could serve as an impediment to our players’ performance given our recent past of the Ebola epidemic in our country,” said LFA Secretary-General Isaac Montgomery in a letter to CAF Secretary-General Amr Fahmy on 10 March.
Liberia wants CAF to study the current health situation but prefers an alternate venue.
Fahmy has promised to do a follow-up on the situation and report to Liberia.
“Your letter is well received. Our director of competitions, Mr. Samson Adamu, will do the necessary follow-up,” said Fahmy.
Ebola footballing history
In August 2014, CAF banned Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone from hosting international matches because of fears of spreading Ebola.
The three West African countries – at the epicenter of the worst outbreak of the highly contagious disease – had originally been banned from hosting all games until mid-September.
But CAF issued an indefinite ban, which compelled Guinea and Sierra Leone, who had 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, to find neutral venues.
Liberia was already eliminated from the qualifiers but their clubs in CAF competitions suffered from the ban.
Guinea chose Morocco as their home ground but Sierra Leone could not find an alternate venue for their group stage qualifiers and instead relinquished home advantage to their opponents.
Sierra Leone advanced to the group stage, having been barred by Seychelles immigration to play the second leg in Victoria for fears over the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak.
Morocco was expelled from the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations finals due to their refusal to host the event because of the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa, prompting CAF to choose Equatorial Guinea, who were initially disqualified for fielding an ineligible player.
CAF cleared Guinea to host international matches in January 2016.
Sierra Leone’s ban was lifted in December 2015 while Liberia was cleared to host matches in May 2015, having been banned in July 2014.
The most widespread Ebola outbreak in history, which began in Guinea in December 2013, killed 11,310 people mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) data and statistics released on May 8, 2016.
In 2015 Liberia’s two representatives to the CAF Champions league and CAF Cup Barrack Young Controller and Fassell FC were prevented from playing their home games in Liberia due to the outbreak in the country. BYC played both legs in The Gambia against Real De Bajul and was eliminated from the competition why Fassell and Horoya of Guinea played their home game in Mali and the Liberian side was knocked out of the competition.