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Sports Features of Sunday, 19 October 2014

Source: Bernard Asubonteng

Please Ghana, do not take the CAF’s Ebola bait!

News story by the on October 16, 2014, is that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has written to “Ghana to consider replacing Morocco as hosts for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations finals.” Apparently, Morocco’s withdrawal from hosting the 2015 soccer event stems from its anxiety about the outbreak of the deadly Ebola disease in their country. If the media reports are true regarding the Moroccans’ decision to pull out from hosting the AFCON 2015 games based on the Ebola pandemic, then that nation has made a smartly proactive move that needs to be replicated throughout other African capitals.
Don’t blame the Moroccan officials, for they have chosen their people’s health and wellbeing over “glittering generalities” often associated with soccer and promoted by CAF/FIFA advertising agencies. The Moroccans have realized that Ebola is real; it’s lethal; it has reached an epidemic proportion; and, the virus is fast undercutting global healthcare architectural systems. This is because even countries far advanced in medical technology are desperately struggling to find a cure for this deadly, hemorrhagic disease. It is against this backdrop that Ghana should interpret the sanguine Moroccan leaders’ position to withdraw from the AFCON’15.
For heaven’s sake, let Ghanaian authorities embrace common sense by eschewing any sense of invulnerability and irresponsibility. Rather, Ghana should treat the Ebola threat seriously, and take a cue from Morocco’s withdrawal and humbly decline to swallow any bait thrown at them from the self-serving CAF and its money-hungry bureaucrats. Geographically, Morocco is relatively faraway from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea or Nigeria—countries with known cases of the Ebola disease. So, if that remote Northwestern African nation does not want to host the AFCON 2015 for genuine fear of Ebola viral disease, there is no any sensible justification for the Ghanaian policymakers to entertain the idea of playing the last-minute hosts nation. After all the past has shown us that hosting a soccer tournament is not a sure guarantee that the host nation will win the trophy at stake; other than that Ghana or Brazil would have won the respective cups in 2008 or 2014.
Based on its decision, it is obvious that the Moroccan leaders are paying serious and close attention to the dreadfulness of Ebola virus, including the disease’s sneakily global trajectories. Perhaps the Moroccans authorities more than their Ghanaian counterparts are listening to the WHO’s dire prediction that by December this year about 10,000 people per week around the world will be infected by the deadly Ebola virus. As of now, in the United States, because of the Liberian national (Eric Duncan) who came to the country with an Ebola virus and eventually died in Texas Presbyterian Hospital, the name of West Africa has become the Western media punching bag. Hardly an hour or a day goes by in US without hearing TV news and other media outlets talking about helpless West Africa and the threat the region poses in spreading the Ebola virus around the world. The recent Ebola narrative portrayed in the media up here in the US reinforces the general perception of the West that Africa is the uncontrollable problem-child of the civilized world.
Keep in mind that because of the lousy media portrayal of Africa, in the US, for example, an average American (erroneously) thinks whatever happens in one part of Africa applies to everywhere. This explains why although the Ebola is in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and a few cases found and isolated in Nigeria, yet, there is an ongoing heated debate now about the possibility of banning all air travels between West Africa and the US till the disease is contained. For many Americans, Africa is one “country” rather than a huge continent with different independent nations, cultures, and varied healthcare systems. Unlike the Ghanaian officials, the US authorities backed by the prying eyes of the media are pushing back hard to fend off the outbreak of the Ebola virus in the US’s soil. So far, two female US nurses who cared for the deceased Liberian in Texas have also contracted Ebola. Thus, the presence of about 3,000 US military personnel recently deployed in the West Africa sub-region speaks volumes about American leaders’ determined effort to contain the Ebola disease at its sources.
However, with all that is going on, including the gloomy predictions from the WHO, one wonders what practically workable efforts are the leaders in many African capitals taking to control the lethal Ebola virus from getting out of hand in the continent? One effective starting point should have come from the African Union (AU) by pushing the CAF to at least abandon or suspend the qualifying soccer games of the upcoming AFCON’15 to help lessen the chances of the Ebola outbreak in Africa. But it is unlikely that the AU took that proactive approach. Why do many African policymakers in general usually failed to set their priorities right? Is it all about them or do they really care about the true plight of their people? Or is it because some soccer officials in Ghana are selfishly trying to please the corrupt CAF to get a higher position when the time is right? What is President Mahama’s position on this national issue?
At any rate, from experience as one born and raised in Ghana before settling in the US, I do not need anyone to tell me that many Ghanaians as well as numerous people in other parts of Africa tend to take things for granted. Many of us often try to explain every misfortune that comes our way in the context of superstitions or witchcraft. It is this unsettling experience and belief system that make me think the Ghanaian officials may decide to take the CAF’s bait to replace Morocco because the average Ghanaian believes that the Ebola disease is only restricted to those nations that engaged in recent civil wars.

In short, let us remind Ghanaian officials deliberating over whether or not to consider hosting the AFCON’15 how Ebola got to Nigeria. According to the August 28, 2014 issue of the Time magazine, Nigeria recorded the first case of Ebola disease in the middle of July, 2014, when an infected Liberian-American financial consultant Patrick Sawyer came from Liberia to Lagos and fainted at the Murtala Airport. The officials at the Nigerian airport did not know then that Mr. Sawyer had the disease until after the fact and some Nigerians had already contracted the virus. Although the Nigerian officials are viewed to have done a great job by containing the spread of the disease so far, still some people have the Ebola in that country. Hopefully, the Ghana government will fully realize the gravity of the Ebola pandemic and move fast to shut off any idea of opening its borders widely in 2015 because of CAF’s short-sighted overtures. Please, Ghana, do not take the juicy bait and allow CAF to make our country the potential breeding grounds for Ebola virus in 2015!