Seychelles fears Ebola, bars Sierra Leone team
Seychelles forfeited an African Cup qualifying game and withdrew from the competition Thursday rather than allow Sierra Leone’s soccer team to travel to the Indian Ocean island because of fears over the deadly Ebola virus.
The Confederation of African Football confirmed Seychelles’ withdrawal in a statement without giving a reason. But Sierra Leone players and officials were earlier barred from boarding a plane in Nairobi, Kenya, that was to take them to the Seychelles capital of Victoria for Saturday’s game.
Airport authorities in Kenya said they were instructed by Seychelles immigration to prevent the Sierra Leone party from traveling.
More than 700 people have died in West Africa from Ebola, with the worst recorded outbreak in history centered in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. One person has also died in Nigeria. The disease has no vaccine and a 60 percent fatality rate.
The Seychelles Football Federation couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. The BBC reported that the group was following government orders.
“We have taken the decision because of the advice sent to us by the Seychelles Ministry of Health,” Seychelles federation President Elvis Chetty said, according to the BBC. “We also received a letter from the Ministry of Immigration saying it would not allow the Sierra Leone team to enter our jurisdiction.”
The Ebola outbreak forced the Liberia Football Association to call off all games indefinitely in that country this week.
“Whenever there is a game, a lot of people come together and we want to discourage gathering at this point,” said Hassan Bility, president of the Liberian federation.
The Liberian group also asked FIFA to reschedule visits by top officials, including one by President Sepp Blatter, that were planned for August and September.
Sierra Leone led the two-leg series 2-0 after winning in Freetown two weeks ago. It advances to the final group stage in qualifying for the African Cup next year in Morocco. The African confederation said it accepted Seychelles’ withdrawal but would investigate the reasons.