Sierra Leone cleared to host international matches

Sierra Leone playing against Ivory Coast
Sierra Leone played their 'home' games in another country while the country was affected by Ebola

Sierra Leone can again host international matches now that the country is free of Ebola.

The Confederation of African Football had banned Sierra Leone from hosting matches upon the recommendations of the World Health Organisation.

But the ban, which took effect in August 2014, has now been lifted following the end of the Ebola epidemic in the West African country.

Caf told the Sierra Leone Football Association by letter on 6 December.

Guinea and Liberia were also banned from hosting matches because of the threat of Ebola in their countries.

While Liberia has been given the go-ahead to resume internationals, Guinea have not yet been cleared Ebola-free by the WHO and so the Caf suspension remains in place.

Boost for Sierra Leone's 2017 Afcon qualification hopes
Sierra Leone will host their remaining 2017 Nations Cup qualifiers in their own country, starting with the match against Gabon in March next year

Guinea currently host games in Mali and Morocco, while Sierra Leone fulfilled home 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying fixtures against Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast at the grounds of their opponents and collected only one point.

Ebola in Sierra Leone killed almost 4,000 people before the nation was declared free of transmission last month.

Sierra Leone captain and former Norwich striker Kei Kamara likened the devastation caused by the Ebola outbreak in his country to "a sci-fi zombie movie".

The former Premier League striker told BBC World Service's Sportsworld programme in September last year how Sierra Leone players were being shunned because some people feared they could spread the disease.

Ebola spreads between humans by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments.

"When we say we're from Sierra Leone all they can say is Ebola," Kamara said. "People are staying away from us, even though we live in Europe and play there. When we say where we're from they are scared to be close to us."

When Sierra Leone played their 'home' games in other countries, the team were subjected to chants of "Ebola" from the stands and opposition players refusing to shake their hands.

Sierra Leone Football Association president Isha Johansen, who spoke to BBC Sport in November just before the country was declared free of Ebola, said the discrimination "was very hurtful".

"We had to deal with outsiders not wanting to accept us. We would have thought sympathy would be the over-riding emotion, and a lot of respect for our team and our country - we expected more support," she said.

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