It must be fine week in African soccer. The Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) executive committee is once again putting its hammer to work, this time disqualifying Morocco from the 2017 and 2019 editions of the Cup of Nations for backing out as 2015 hosts.
Morocco was originally slated to host this year’s tournament until ebola fears caused the North African nation to ask CAF to postpone the tournament for one year. Morocco argued that the risk of outbreak and the fact that the disease can be spread by and among incoming fans was reason enough to trigger force majeure contract clauses, which relieve parties from obligations in the event of extraordinary circumstances or “acts of God.” According to Morocco, the ebola threat was an extraordinary threat outside of its control.
CAF rejected Morocco’s argument. But because there no way to force a nation to host a tournament against its will, a new host had to be found. Enter Equatorial Guinea. But while Equatorial Guinea saved the day, there were still punishments to be handed out. CAF doesn’t forget, as illustrated by today’s announcement.
In addition to the suspension from the next two Cup of Nations tournaments, per CAF regulations, Morocco was also fined $1 million. CAF also found that the Royal Moroccan Football Federation owed 8.05 million Euros for the damage sustained by CAF and other stakeholders as a result of contract breaches.
This is surely just the beginning of the story. Don’t be surprised if there are appeals and finger wagging. But if the ban stands, you have to feel for Moroccan players who will have to wait six years until they can possibly appear in another Cup of Nations. For some players, that would certainly spell the end of Cup of Nations careers. At the end of the day, the monetary cost to the federation pales in comparison to the price players will have to pay for missing out of several cycles of Cup of Nations qualifying and tournament play.