Pitch concerns…As AFCON quarter final games moved

PitchThis weekend’s African Nations Cup quarter finals have been moved away from the small Equatorial Guinea towns of Ebebiyin and Mongomo due to concerns over the pitches.

Saturday’s quarterfinal between the host nation and Tunisia, scheduled for the 5,000-capacity Estadio de Ebebiyín, has been shifted to Bata, the Confederation of African Football said on Tuesday.

It will be played as the second match in a double-header also involving the derby between Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sunday’s quarterfinal in Mongomo between the winners of Group C the Black Stars and runners-up in Group D, will now be played as the opening match of two at the Estadio de Malabo.

The first games will kick off at 4pm (GMT) with the second moved 30 minutes later than originally scheduled.

CAF cited concerns that the pitches at Ebebiyin and Mongomo would struggle to hold up beyond the pool phase, especially after torrential rain in the country on Monday.

“The newly-installed pitches in Ebebiyin and Mongomo have been very satisfactory, allowing free flowing play during the group stages, and this despite having been installed only about one month ago,” a CAF statement read.

“However, these two pitches have been adversely affected by a combination of wear and tear from the six games played or to be played in each of them and the unstable weather conditions seen lately.

“Consequently, the CAF Executive Committee feels that the eight teams qualified for the quarterfinal stages onwards should be given the opportunity to play on grounds that provide the highest standards, specifically those of Bata and Malabo, to ensure the quality of play remains at the highest possible level.”

CAF had said it would discuss a change of venue when it became clear that hosts Equatorial Guinea would play their quarterfinal at Ebebiyin.

The recently-built stadium there is patently too small for the expected turnout as the country rides a euphoric wave after their surprise victory over their neighbours Gabon in the last group game on Sunday.

Spectators broke through fences at the opening Nations Cup game in Bata on January 17.

At other venues, segregated areas for VIPS and media have been overrun by supporters with poorly trained police unable to control them.

Equatorial Guinea stepped in to host the tournament after Morocco was ruled out in November because it called for the tournament to be postponed over fears about the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

— Reuters

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