Ebola Not the Only Concern for Nations Cup Hosts


The fight against Ebola has been given top priority in Equatorial Guinea, but it has not been the only problem facing the hosts of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

Ebola has dominated all talk of this year's competition, which begins on Saturday after earlier looking as if it would not go ahead when Morocco refused to act as hosts due to fears surrounding the virus.

And it was understandably high on the agenda for Equatorial Guinea when it agreed to step in and save the day for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in November.

The small central African state which co-hosted the 2012 tournament with Gabon has hired a team of Cuban doctors, backed up by medical staff from France and Egypt, to help prevent the virus crossing its borders.

Passengers arriving at the airport in the capital Malabo are immediately subjected to screening, while anyone arriving from affected countries will have their details taken and be monitored for 21 days.

Around Malabo banners remind locals of the importance of the fight against Ebola, but there is no fear, among organizers, of the virus spreading.

"We have a special commission to Ebola so I think nobody should be afraid," said Mba Fadipe Ambrosio, from the local organizing committee.

"There is no problem with Ebola. You can look at me -- I am here. I don't wear gloves, a mask, nothing. That means security."

His comments were backed up by the French medical staff who are in the country to help the fight.

"The protocols in place are in line with what has been done in other countries where there is a risk of infection," said Christiane Bruel, a doctor with France's Civil Protection.

"In my opinion the risk for the local population is extremely minimal."

Indeed, the World Health Organization reported earlier this week that the worst hit countries had all seen a drop in the number of reported cases, even if 8,429 people have now died.

Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are at the epicenter of the crisis, with all three nations lying at least 3,000 kilometers west of Equatorial Guinea.

Of them, only Guinea have reached the finals, having ironically played home qualifiers in Morocco.

Meanwhile, the other logistical challenges faced by the hosts in the last two months have been considerable.

In 2012, only Malabo and the largest city Bata hosted games in a country described as one of the most corrupt in the world by Transparency International.

This time, the remote interior towns of Mongomo and Ebebiyin will also be used, with CAF spokesman Hicham El Amrani insisting that venues and accommodation there were "better than what we expected."

But even in Bata and Malabo things have been far from perfect, with veteran Congo Brazzaville coach Claude Le Roy having expressed his exasperation at his team's accommodation.

Work goes on to prepare the Estadio de Malabo, although the opening game there, between the Ivory Coast and Guinea, is not until next Tuesday.

And it remains to be seen how many fans turn out in a country that lacks the kind of passion for the game that exists in Morocco.

Fadipe Ambrosio insisted there were "no concerns" among organizers of empty stadium at matches, and to help in the effort to fill seats, the country's president Teodoro Obiang Nguema said he has bought 40,000 tickets at a cost of 500 Francs CFA (just over $1) each, to be distributed among fans.

The tills were not exactly ringing at ticket booths outside the stadium in Malabo on Friday, with more staff present than fans.

However, one vendor said that only the most expensive seats were still available for the Ivory Coast's glamor showdown with Cameroon, at a price of 3,000 FCFA each.

But if the locals turn out, there are still unlikely to be many traveling fans, even from neighboring Cameroon and Gabon, with hardline president Obiang expressing concerns over illegal immigration.

In Malabo, Fadipe Ambrosio backed him up, saying: "There is a problem here in the sub-regions, when people might want to profit from the tournament to come into the country and do things that are not looked upon very well."

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