THE devastating earthquake that hit Marrakech, Morocco overnight has forced the postponement of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match between the Atlas Lions and Liberia initially scheduled for today in Agadir.
However, there are indications that tomorrow’s AFCON qualifier between Congo and Gambia billed for the affected city will be played.
The earthquake struck in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains late last night, killing over 1,000 people and damaging historic buildings in Marrakech – the nearest city to the epicentre — while most of the fatalities were reported in mountainous areas to the south.
Morocco’s Interior Ministry said 1,037 people had been killed and another 672 injured by the earthquake, gauged by the United States Geological Survey at a magnitude of 6.8 with an epicentre some 72 km (45 miles) southwest of Marrakech.
“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 today.
“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.”
Morocco have already booked their ticket to the tournament, scheduled for January and February next year in Cote d’Ivoire, while Liberia have no chance of qualifying.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported today that Congo and Gambia’s AFCON qualifier in Marrakech will go ahead as scheduled tomorrow despite the damage to the city.
According to Reuters, the players of both squads spent the night sleeping beside their respective hotel pools after Morocco’s deadliest quake in more than six decades struck.
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.
Gambia, who are hosting the game in Morocco because of a lack of a suitable stadium back home, and Congo are battling for the second Group G ticket behind already qualified Mali.
The ‘hosts’ need a point to advance to the tournament while Congo need to win by at least a three-goal margin.
“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.
“We have been outside for some 13-14 hours now. 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.”