Cameroon has lost its rights to host the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2019, and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) executives are now in a hunt for a new host for the most prestigious and toughest African sporting competition. The drums are beating that Morocco should host the AFCON after disgracing Africans in 2014 by refusing to host the AFCON 2015.
In November 2014, Morocco shocked the world when it told CAF executive that it would not be hosting African Nations Cup that were scheduled to start in January 2015 because of an Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone Sierra Leone, and Liberia. According to the statement from the Moroccan Ministry of Health, the Ebola outbreak in sub-Saharan Africa was a threat to the country’s lucrative tourism sector (which at that time accounted for 10% of its economy), as well as its national security.
However, according to an article published in the Guardian Newspaper shortly after the announcement, ‘Morocco’s reasons for refusing to host the tournament appear to be an overreaction given that the virus is only present in four out of 54 African countries. The US, which has direct flights to Morocco, has had more Ebola deaths than the majority of African states’.
There was also some fair bit of racism. Morocco, as most North-African countries, have also seen sub-Saharan black Africans are inferior to them, notwithstanding the “brotherly” rhetoric that always guides their public statement when seeking a deal with African countries.
In July this year, Hana Al-Khamri, a black reporter for Al-Jazeera explored the portrayal of black people in the arts and theatre in the Northern Africa and Middle East, and describes a deeply entrenched racism and offensive views about black people.
“The portrayal of black people in Arab cinema reflects the widespread anti-black sentiments and racism that exists across Arabic-speaking countries. On the screen, black people are cast into subordinate roles, reduced to servants, housemaids, prostitutes, clowns and doorkeepers working for rich families’ she said.
In September this year, a Liberian official was forced to intervene to defend his citizens in Casablanca after Morocco airways officials offered passengers from western countries accommodation while on a transit, but asked blacks to lie on the floor. The Minister felt humiliated and angered that his citizens where treated in such a disgusting way.
The Guardian was able to put the dots together that Morocco refused the host the AFCON 2015 because of the racist and xenophobic view about black people. “For all the talk of ‘African brotherhood’ (count the times Moroccan football authorities mouth such platitudes), Morocco, like most of its north African neighbours, has a difficult relationship with nations south of the Sahara. African migrants, some on their way to Europe, regularly complain about harassment, violence and xenophobia.
“Sarah El-Shaarawi, acting editor of the journal Arab Media and Society, based in Cairo, [said] much of the coverage of Ebola in the Arab press has been inflammatory, so the disproportionate response in Morocco falls comfortably in line with overreactions we are seeing elsewhere”.
In essence when thousands of Africans were dying from Ebola, Morocco refused to welcome and entertain the suffering masses, even after evidence that that AFCON teams and fans were unlikely to spread the Ebola virus to Morocco.
Again, as the Guardian article noted at the time “For one, while Ebola is clearly a deadly disease, it is mainly being contained to three countries in West Africa (a separate strain has been active in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), though not with the same catastrophic results, and there was a second death in Mali this week). Secondly, teams from the affected countries seem unlikely to qualify for next year’s tournament. Though Guinea has an outside chance of qualifying, Sierra Leone is bottom of its group and Liberia is already out of contention”.
After Morocco’s refusal to welcome sub-Saharan Africans because they “were sick”, Equatorial Guinea President intervened, seeing his action as removing the shame from the face of the black man and black woman. Equatorial Guinea accepted to host the games three weeks before the start of the games.
Threats from CAF that the football body was going to sanction, and fine Morocco $10 million did not dissuade the Arab country from opening its doors to African fans.
It is surprising that Morocco is today leading the call to host AFCON 2019 after Cameroon failed to provide the infrastructure and climate. One can rightly understand King Mohamed of Morocco’s pan-African turn. He got the country to join African Union in 2017, 36 years after they left the pan-African organisation over disputes relating to the desert territory of Sahara. He has forged strong bilateral ties with Rwanda, Nigeria, Gabon, Ethiopia, South Africa, among several other countries since 2016.
That notwithstanding, Black Africans should boycott AFCON 2019, if hosted in Morocco. King Mohamed was the king when his country decided to rub us the shame on our face. He got to the throne in 1999. In addition, Morocco has never apologised to the black people over that decision. At least, if Africans are truly brothers to Moroccans as they claim, they shouldn’t have shut them out of their country 2015, that was hostile, inhospitable and disrespectful.
Today Morocco is campaigning to host AFCON 2019. The Confederation of North African Football is strongly supporting Morocco. Africans should not. African fans should massively boycott the competition if held in Morocco. Africans can use their wallet to decide who are their friends and brothers, and boycotting AFCON in Morocco, is one way to say “Black lives matter.”
N/B: The views expressed in this article are the authors’. They do not necessarily reflect that of National Times News. National Times News welcomes and promotes open debates about pressing issues from diverse perspectives.