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Friday, February 25, 2011

African Soccer Leaders and Blatter Delay Depriving Libya of U-20 Soccer Tournament

Depriving Libya of the right to host next month’s Under-20 African soccer championship amid widespread international condemnation of Col. Moammar Gadaffi’s brutal crackdown on protesters seeking to oust him after 41 years in office would seem a no-brainer.

That however is not the case in the minds of the executive committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and FIFA president Sepp Blatter despite growing concern among African teams about security in Libya and revulsion at the violence employed by Gadaffi.

“We cannot risk the lives of our players by taking them to a battle field,” said Lesotho Football Association spokesman Baba Malephane in the latest African expression of concern.

South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria have indicated that they would be willing to replace Libya as hosts of the 20-nation tournament which is scheduled to open in Libya on March 18 with matches in Tripoli at the Great Man-Made River stadium where fighting is intense and the Hugo Chavez Stadium in Benghazi, which has been wrested from the control of pro-Gadaffi forces.

The tournament’s organizing committee is still headed by Gadhafi's eldest son Mohammed even though the Libyan leader’s various sons have been in commanding positions of the crackdown.

CAF president Issa Hayoutou and Blatter were expected to announce which country would replace Libya as host at a news conference in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Friday. Hundreds of people have been killed in Gadaffi’s crackdown and significant chunks of the country have fallen into the hands of ant-government forces after heavy fighting.

Hayatou and Blatter nonetheless used the news conference to say that they continued to monitor the turmoil in Libya and had yet to decide whether to move the tournament to elsewhere in Africa.

Hayatou said the CAF executive committee would meet "very soon" to take a decision. African soccer leaders were in Khartoum this week to attend the second African Cup of Nations for Home-Based Players (CHAN 2011.

"We still have to sit and talk about it. In the meantime we hope to see peace not only in Libya but in the whole continent," Hayatou said.

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