Soccer's getting more and more freaked out about Ebola

Ebola’s spreading through soccer; or, at least, the fear of the deadly virus is. The sport’s interest in Ebola is now moving far beyond Twitter jokes directed at minor league English striker Dele Adebola.

The BBC reports that surprisingly-still-Newcastle-manager Alan Pardew has expressed concerns about two of his African players, Chieck Tiote and Papiss Cisse, who’ve been on African Cup of Nations duty on the continent.

“They are essential to us and our doctor has looked into the problems that might arise,” said Pardew. “We have a strategy for when they return and making sure they and their families are taken care of.”

Sierra Leone played a home game against Cameroon earlier this month in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, because of the virus’s spread in Sierra Leone. (Fans reportedly taunted the team with “Ebola” chants.)

Still, were Tiote and Cisse in Liberia cleaning up vomit in a hospital, perhaps? No, Tiote played for the Ivory Coast against DR Congo, while Cisse featured for Senegal against Tunisia. Both were home-and-away doubleheaders.

There was a small outbreak in a remote part of DR Congo earlier this year, which was contained.

But the central African country is a long way from the west African nations that are the epicenter of the current widespread and extremely serious outbreak. And Abidjan, the Ivory Coast capital, is 400 miles from the Liberian border. As for Tunisia: it’s 3,000 miles from Liberia and closer to Newcastle than to west Africa.

The Spanish flu epidemic that swept the States in 1918 led to widespread canceling of social events, including sports fixtures. While there may be legitimate concerns about the potential of matches to spread the disease among fans (given that they involve thousands of strangers gathering in crowded stadiums), it’s hard to imagine that leading players in away games — cooped up in hotels, kept away from the public — are at great risk from a virus that isn’t all that easy to catch, despite cable news ratings-chasing scaremongering.

Now there are reports — newly denied — that Morocco wants to withdraw as host of next year’s African Cup of Nations because of fears that hundreds of thousands of fans will flock to the country, potentially bringing Ebola with them. Anxiety is infectious.

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