The African Cup of Nations. It would be nice to reference it in a context that didn’t involve European coaches being assholes or the threat of a pandemic, but here we are again. Give the news cycle credit, though, there continues to be new names, faces and creative ways for fans looking forward to the tournament to be bummed out.
After Morocco backed out of hosting January’s tournament, Equatorial Guinea was named its replacement. It appears Morocco may have found a like-minded soul in former African women’s player of the year, two-time African Women’s Championship winner and Equatorial Guinean, Genoveva Añonma:
“I am afraid for everyone. They should cancel it for the good of humanity and the good of our country.”
“There is an 80% risk that the virus could contaminate our country but what can we do? We have to accept it,”
“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.”
It’s easy to dismiss much of the outsider paranoia over the safety of those involved with AFCON. Cries for cancellation often come off as over-dramatized and separated from the realities of the disease’s reality.
When those pleas come from someone fearful for home nation, words carry a different weight. According to the BBC, “Up to 15 December, 6,856 people had been reported as having died from the disease in six countries; Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the United States and Mali. The total number of reported cases is more than 18,000.”
The government of Equatorial Guinea insists itse prepared for AFCON and there should be no major concern. Safeguards — including an import of medical personnel, increased health screening at points of travel and the requirement of certified documentation of travelers’ medical history — have been put in place.
Añonma’s outlook isn’t one of total dread. She recognizes the opportunity for positive publicity and realistic depictions of her nation:
“Lots of the accusations about Equatorial Guinea are false, all the Guinean people are free to do what they want and they do.”
“I think the Cup can help a lot. Organised events bring people in to see our country. They can see bad things, good things, see how the country works.”