There is something to be said about the impact fear alone can have on society. Just the notion that something could go wrong often leads to us as a civilization to pause and retreat. Often nothing comes from it, or at least it cannot be measured as things have been altered to prevent that fear from becoming a reality. Fear overcomes many obstacles in order to get its way with people dismissing common sense, raw data and logical arguments along the way to giving in to it. It would appear as though fear has won again, this time in Africa with Morocco deciding that they can no longer play host to next years African Cup of Nations due to the fear that Ebola may surface in the country during the tournament.
Seen as the pinnacle of international football in Africa, Morocco’s decision to walk away from hosting next January’s event has thrown the tournament into chaos. For organizers the Confederation of African Football (CAF), finding a suitable replacement at such short notice may be an impossible task with other nations unwilling to play host due to similar concerns. Cancelling is not an option at present but if a country cannot be found within weeks then they may be left with no other choice than to postpone their flagship tournament. To be fair, Morocco has every right to be fearful about Ebola spreading to its lands. The epidemic, which has been traced back to a two year old girl who died in December of last year in Guinea has rapidly infected thousands in the largely impoverished countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea and to date has killed just under 5,000. Included in that count was Thomas Eric Duncan, a US citizen who after contracting the disease through contact in Liberia flew back to Texas only to die in quarantine some five days later. A handful of other people have also undergone treatment in the US, Spain and Norway but all are in the medical profession and had been in Western Africa helping fight the disease so understood the early warning signs enough to seek help.
The disease can only be passed through contact with infected blood or bodily fluids and is not as many feared an air borne virus. Contracting the disease is extremely difficult unless you have come into contact with someone already infected but that information appears to fall onto deaf ears as fear takes control. Whilst new cases are being reported in the three worst hit regions, no new cases outside of that have come to light in the last two weeks. In fact leading doctors in the field are starting to see that the disease is plateauing in the worst hit country of Sierra Leone with fewer new cases coming forward than previous months. The latest information released suggests that the containment infrastructure employed in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia is working with the disease mostly contained now to these countries and that progress is being made a pegging back the onslaught of the disease.
However global fear has overtaken raw data and logic and is fueling the continued panic about Ebola. Football had already seen a few cases of this with select clubs unwilling to accept their African players back to training after international appearances. But now the fear has won its first victory with Morocco overlooking recent health reports in favour of believing that the fear could be real. Fear will continue to grow until Ebola is once again eradicated but until then it will flourish with few willing to side against it. The fate of next years African Cup of Nations will depend on the next few weeks and how much progress is made in tackling the outbreak. However by then it may just be too late to rescue the tournament which looks set to be yet another victim of the Ebola crisis.