Morocco booted out of Africa Cup as future of the tournament hangs in the balance

CAPE TOWN- MOROCCO was formally ruled out as host of next year’s African Nations Cup but promised clarity over which country will host the tournament failed to emerge from a Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive committee meeting in Cairo on Tuesday.

The immediate future of the 16-team tournament, the showpiece of African football, remained unclear with no exact timetable for the next step in the bid to find an alternate host to Morocco which has also been kicked out of the competition.

Morocco’s removal as host followed the north African country’s request for a postponement of the Jan. 17-Feb. 8 Nations Cup over fears of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

CAF said it had received “some applications” from countries expressing a desire to step in as hosts on the scheduled dates, even though the practicalities of arranging a tournament of the size of the Nations Cup at such short notice seem daunting.

African soccer’s governing body did not name the prospective candidates and there have been no public expressions of interest.

“These applications are currently under review and the executive committee will finalise the selection of the successful national association shortly,” CAF said in a statement.

That merely added a new dimension to the speculation over the destiny of the tournament which is CAF’s main source of revenue and, if cancelled, could cost the organisation dearly.

Angola, Egypt, Gabon and Nigeria were the countries being touted as possible replacement hosts by African media following Tuesday’s statement.

Morocco believes thousands of travelling supporters from west Africa pose a risk and wanted a postponement of at least six months while the fight against Ebola intensified.

But CAF rejected any change to the planned dates citing a packed calendar. It gave Morocco an ultimatum of Saturday to withdraw its request which was rejected.

CAF said last week it would resolve the future of the 2015 finals at Tuesday’s meeting in Cairo.

CAF also announced it would seek legal redress from Morocco based on its contractual agreement with the Royal Moroccan Football Federation which was signed in April.

Moroccan football is also likely to be heavily sanctioned, including a likely ban from future Nations Cup competitions. -REUTERS