The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations disqualified Morocco from the soccer competition Tuesday after the country pulled out of hosting over Ebola concerns. The tournament will go ahead from Jan. 17 to Feb. 8 as scheduled, but Morocco will neither host it nor participate. The parent organization, the Confederation of African Football, began reviewing other countries' bids to host the event Tuesday.
The decision comes days after Morocco requested the contest be postponed to at least June. In response, the confederation refused and set a Nov. 3 ultimatum for Morocco to confirm that it's hosting the event. The country rejected it. "The decision is dictated by health reasons because of the serious threat of Ebola and the risk of its spreading," a statement from Morocco's sports ministry read.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not list Morocco as a country with confirmed cases of Ebola, the deadly viral disease spread by contact with patients' bodily fluids. But reports said that a Liberian man died of Ebola in Morocco in August, and there were two suspected cases in Casablanca in October.
At the confederation's executive committee meeting Tuesday, Morocco was officially stripped of its duties and disqualified. The organization released a statement: "Having firmly and unanimously notified on 3 November its decision to keep the competition on the dates indicated, the Executive Committee confirmed that the Orange Africa Cup of Nations 2015 will not take place in Morocco," it read. South Africa and Ghana have been approached as potential new hosts, Al Arabiya News reported.
In the meantime, Morocco could face penalties for shirking its hosting responsibility. The organization plans to "later apply the statutory provisions that are required due to a breach of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation regulatory and contractual provisions, including those set out in the Host Association Agreement signed between CAF and the Royal Moroccan Football Federation in April 2014," according to the statement.
The Africa Cup of Nations has been held every two years since 1957. In 2013, when South Africa hosted the cup, 16 teams played in five host cities. About 730,000 people total attended the 32 games. Nigeria won, followed by Burkina Faso and Mali.