Female star adds voice to calls to axe AFCON

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Equatorial Guinea’s former African women’s footballer of the year Genoveva Anonma has called for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations to be cancelled to avoid the Ebola virus spreading to her country.

Genoveva Anonma
Genoveva Anonma

Equatorial Guinea stepped in to replace Morocco last month as hosts when the north African country was stripped for calling for a delay. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) dismissed Morocco’s concerns over the Ebola risk and said the tournament had to go ahead on time. Equatorial Guinea stepped in late on, but Anonma says she is worried about the consequences.

“I am afraid for everyone,” she said. “They should cancel it for the good of humanity and the good of our country.”

Up to December 15, 6,856 people had been reported as having died from the disease in six countries, most notably Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Whilst it has been largely contained elsewhere in Africa bar sporadic cases, Anonma, who finished top scorer when her country won the African Women’s Championship on home soil in 2008 and 2012 and plays her club football for Turbine Potsdam in Germany, says the risk is too great.

“There is an 80% risk that the virus could contaminate our country but what can we do? We have to accept it,” the 27-year-old forward told BBC World Service. “We are a small country and we don’t want things like this in our country. I have family there; my grandparents, my cousin, my aunt and uncle. My mother and my father are there too – everyone is there.”

The Equatorial Guinea government and tournament organisers have played down Anonma’s concerns. Deputy Sports Minister Ruslan Obiang Nsue told the BBC: “If we didn’t have the means to control Ebola we would never have accepted to host the Africa Cup of Nations. It was because we had all the confidence that we had the technical and health means to control Ebola.”