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Soccer-Ebola countries told to move African qualifiers

Reuters

* Guinea, Sierra Leone told to move matches

* Sierra Leone seeks help from uncertain Ghana (adds byline, statements, details, changes date of Guinea v Togo fixture)

By Mark Gleeson

CAPE TOWN, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Guinea and Sierra Leone have been ordered to move their African Nations Cup qualifiers next month to neutral territory following the outbreak of the Ebola virus in west Africa, which has killed more than 1,000 people.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) said on Tuesday that Liberia, who are out of the Nations Cup, must also move international matches although there are none imminent at senior, club or junior level.

Sierra Leone had already asked Ghana to host their game against the Democratic Republic of Congo next month but have received an uncertain response.

The Ebola epidemic - the world's largest and deadliest so far - has killed 1,013 in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

The World Health Organization has declared an international health emergency as it predicts the epidemic will continue for months.

"CAF has asked the three federations to relocate to a neutral country matches their teams are hosting in CAF competitions for a period up to mid-September," said a statement from African soccer's governing body.

Guinea were due to host Togo on Sept. 5 in their opening Group E qualifier while Sierra Leone's first home game is on Sept. 10 against DR Congo in Group D.

Sierra Leone, where the FA suspended all football last week, had already made plans to move their tie, asking Ghana to host the match.

HEALTH IMPLICATIONS

"The Ghana Football Association has received a request from our brothers at the Sierra Leone Football Association seeking to play their qualifying home matches in Accra," the Ghana FA (GFA) said in a statement on Tuesday.

"While the GFA is keen on helping out our brothers from Sierra Leone, we are uncertain about the health implications for our country.

"Therefore the GFA has asked the SLFA (Sierra Leone FA) to ask their government to make a formal request to the government of Ghana for consideration by the Ministry of Health.

"It is based on this report from Ghana's Ministry of Health that a decision will be taken."

Earlier this month, Sierra Leone had a walkover in their playoff tie when the Seychelles refused the squad entry into the country because of fears of spreading the virus.

The Seychelles forfeited the tie, enabling Sierra Leone to qualify for the group stage of the preliminaries ahead of next January's finals in Morocco.

Togo had already said its government was likely to stop its squad from travelling to Guinea.

Liberia suspended all football activity two weeks ago. (Editing by Neville Dalton)

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