Sierra Leone will play its Group I home fixture of the 2017 African Cup of Nation qualifiers against Ivory Coast in Nigeria.
According to the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA), the September 6 clash between the Leone Stars and the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire will be played in either Lagos or Port Harcourt following the temporal ban placed on Sierra Leone from hosting international matches due to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.
Although, a ban on domestic football was lifted earlier this month in Sierra Leone, CAF is yet to clear the country to host AFCON qualifiers. And SLFA says Nigeria has accepted to host the crucial tie, with either the Teslim Balogun stadium, Lagos or Adokie Amiesiemaka Stadium, Port Harcourt the likely venue. “It’s welcome news that our big brother, Nigeria has agreed to host us against Ivory coast. This has brought more confidence to the players and officials against the opposition and had reduced our disadvantaged position we had suffered in last year having to play our home games in the opponents’ grounds,” SLFA official, Sorie Ibrahim Sesay declared.
The game against the African champions will be the first in charge for Ghanaian Sellas Tetteh, who has been appointed as Sierra Leone caretaker coach. Sierra Leone lost their opening Nations Cup qualifier 1-0 to Group I opponents Sudan in June, when John Jebbor Sherington was caretaker coach.
Group I also includes 2017 Nations Cup hosts Gabon but their matches will not count towards qualification. Only the group winners advance to the finals.
Meanwhile, since CAF slammed ban on Sierra Leone in the wake of the Ebola outbreak, the national team had been unable to find a neutral venue for its matches. Although it has been several weeks since the last reported case of Ebola in Sierra Leone but it is yet to be officially declared free of the deadly disease. And CAF will not lift the ban to allow Sierra Leone to resume hosting international matches until the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the country Ebola free.
By Olisemeka Obeche