African qualifier to go ahead in Marrakesh despite deadly quake

09 September 2023 - 18:22 By MARK GLEESON
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Congo and Gambia's African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier in Marrakesh will go ahead as scheduled on Sunday despite the powerful earthquake that struck the city on Friday night, which has so far killed more than 1,000 people and injured hundreds more.

However, Saturday's match between Morocco and Liberia in Agadir, some 260km away from the quake epicentre, was postponed.

The Congo and Gambia squads spent the night sleeping beside their respective hotel pools after the magnitude 7.2 quake that struck in Morocco's High Atlas mountains and damaged buildings in nearby Marrakesh. It was the country's deadliest tremor in more than six decades.

The coaches of both teams said their players had been traumatised by the event but had been told they must go ahead with their match.

Sunday’s Group G decider between Gambia and Congo is being played in Marrakesh because Gambia do not have a suitable stadium for hosting international matches.

“We have been told our match on Sunday must go ahead. It’s quite strange that the Morocco game is off but ours is not,” Gambia coach Tom Saintfiet told Reuters.

Caf were asked for confirmation and comment but did not respond.

“We have been outside for some 13-14 hours now,” added Saintfiet.

“The hotel is damaged but we can hopefully get new rooms on the ground. But we think it is best this game is postponed because the mood among the players is understandably sombre and everyone is a little scared.”

Congo’s coach Paul Put said his players were unharmed.

“We are OK but still in shock. Mentally it’s difficult to keep up the concentration. We had to sleep outside, near the swimming pool. It was very scary and even now a complicated situation for the players,” he told Reuters.

Morocco's showdown with Liberia would have been their last Group K match, where the outcome is of academic interest only.

“Following the earthquake which affected certain regions of Morocco, the Royal Moroccan Football Federation announces the postponement of the match ... (to) a later date, in agreement with the Confederation of African Football,” officials said in a statement.

“After this serious injury, the national football family presents its most sincere condolences to the families of the victims, and wishes a speedy recovery to all those injured.”


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