ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) – The Ivory Coast government decided late yesterday to allow Sierra Leone’s team to enter the country, giving the go-ahead for an African Cup qualifier after fears over Ebola put the game and Ivory Coast’s place in the tournament in doubt.
The Ivorian government announced the decision late into the night after a meeting of its National Security Council.
It said it had been given guarantees by Sierra Leone’s football federation that none of the 20 players and four coaches traveling had been in Sierra Leone or any other country affected by Ebola in the last 21 days – the time it takes for Ebola symptoms to emerge.
Ivory Coast has restrictions on travel from countries affected by the deadly virus like Sierra Leone and initially said its squad would not be allowed in. Ebola has killed more than 1 500 people in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria and has now appeared in a fifth West African country, Senegal, in the worst outbreak ever recorded.
The Confederation of African Football has temporarily moved games out of Guinea and Sierra Leone but insisted Saturday’s match should go ahead as planned in the Ivorian capital Abidjan or Ivory Coast would forfeit its place in the African Cup of Nations.
The Ivorian government said in a statement that was read on national TV that it was allowing the game to go ahead after Sierra Leone picked a squad of foreign-based players and would allow its party to be screened on arrival in Ivory Coast, the Ivorian government said.
Ebola is spread through contact with bodily fluids like blood, sweat and saliva but health experts say banning travel to or from affected countries will not help curb the outbreak.
No African Cup qualifiers will take place in Sierra Leone and Guinea until at least mid-September, when CAF will reassess the situation. However, CAF ordered other games to go ahead, including Sierra Leone’s visit to Ivory Coast, Republic of Congo’s trip to Nigeria and Cameroon’s away match in Congo, where there is a second, unrelated Ebola outbreak.
Guinea will play Togo in neutral Morocco in the first round of matches in the 2015 African Cup’s final qualifiers, which begin on Friday.