The second and final preliminary qualifying round of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations will take place this Saturday. The small island nation of Seychelles, off the coast of Somalia in the Indian Ocean, were to host the second leg against Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone won the first leg, 2-0, and were scheduled to play in Seychelles tomorrow. Sierra Leone, however, has been one of the countries ravaged by the Ebola virus outbreak. Hundreds of people have been infected and died and it’s quickly a horrible situation over there. Areas of the country have been quarantined and Seychelles immigration members have banned people traveling out of Sierra Leone to Seychelles for fear of the disease potentially spreading.
As a result, the game between Seychelles and Sierra Leone cannot be played due to most of the Sierra Leone players being banned from entering Seychelles. Some players, like Middlesbrough’s Kei Kamara, were already in Seychelles preparing for the game. Kamara has been spending time between England and the United States for the past few months so he was allowed to enter the island. Most Sierra Leone players, while likely not carrying the Ebola virus, aren’t going to make it. Better safe than sorry from Seychelles point of view. Because Seychelles is keeping Sierra Leone players from playing in the game, they decided to forfeit the game and Sierra Leone will advance to the Africa Cup of Nations.
Clearly this is a situation where it’s kind of insensitive to analyze how the Ebola outbreak affects a soccer tournament. Seychelles made the right call to not go through with the game. You can’t have too many precautions about a disease that’s incredibly fatal and can spread rapidly. I do believe that Sierra Leone should have been the ones who forfeited and not Seychelles. I realize neither teams players are responsible for the outbreak but what if the worst case scenario happens and the outbreak goes on for the foreseeable future. Will the other three teams in Sierra Leone’s group be willing to risk playing or forfeit as well giving Sierra Leone a free ride through the tournament? I know soccer can be an escape for people and can help bring happiness in bad times but there are some things that are more important than a soccer game. Regardless of the decisions made, let’s all hope for a quick and speedy recovery to those ravaged in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and hope it doesn’t spread even further than it already has.