Sports

Nations Cup organisers dismiss Ebola, venue fears

BATA: The African Football Confederation (CAF) on Friday expressed confidence that adequate measures have been taken in host nation Equatorial Guinea to protect against Ebola as the Africa Cup of Nations prepares to get underway.

“We are very confident, it was one of our top priorities,” assured CAF general secretary Hicham El Amrani at a press conference in the country’s largest city Bata on Friday.

More than 8,000 people have died in the epidemic in west Africa, but no cases have been reported in Equatorial Guinea, which stepped in to organise the hosting of the Cup of Nations after Morocco’s withdrawal over Ebola fears.

“A lot of money has been invested in Equatorial Guinea in equipment such as specialist ambulances. There is an anti-Ebola commission and doctors have come from other countries.

“A concrete plan has been put in place.”

Meanwhile, El Amrani stated his satisfaction at preparations in the towns and cities chosen to host games at the 16-team event.

Fears have been expressed in particular about the small towns of Mongomo and Ebebiyin, but he said: “In Mongomo and Ebebiyin what we have got is better than what we expected.”

The two towns are hosts along with Bata and the capital Malabo, which also staged games when Equatorial Guinea co-hosted the 2012 Nations Cup with Gabon.

The small central African state has had barely two months to prepare after stepping in when Morocco refused to host the competition and there has been concern whether adequate facilities could be provided in Mongomo and Ebebiyin, both situated deep in the interior of the impoverished country.

El Amrani said work to lay the pitches at the two venues started around December 13 and was finished by December 25. He added that work on other facilities at the stadia was on time.

“We have four sites that are of an acceptable level, with certain imperfections, but with the priority given to the players, security, good quality playing surfaces and accommodation,” he added.

Eight training pitches across the four host towns have been approved by specialists, while accommodation is “satisfactory”, despite concerns already expressed by Congo Brazzaville coach Claude Le Roy.

Le Roy complained of a lack of sufficient rooms for his players and staff and a lack of water at his team’s hotel in Bata.

El Amrani said: “Despite difficulties at certain hotels, we believe that the majority if not all of the infrastructure for the teams is satisfactory.

“Of course, things are better in Malabo, and it has not been possible to build new facilities since November 13, but overall things are satisfactory.

“The four sites are ready, the ticketing system is in place and the sale of tickets began last Monday.

“We are just having a few worries with media installations, but we are working very hard on that.”

The 30th Nations Cup begins on Saturday, when the hosts face Congo Brazzaville and Gabon meet Burkina Faso, with both Group A games being played in Bata. (AFP)

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