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Morocco federation rejects ban for failing to host African Nations Cup

Ivory Coast secured their second African Nations Cup triumph with a 9-8 penalty shootout victory over Ghana in Sunday's finale in Bata.

RABAT, Morocco -- Morocco has rejected sanctions by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for withdrawing from hosting the African Cup of Nations, calling them harmful to the sport and against the rules.

The Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) pulled out two months before the tournament's start in January, citing health risks from fans traveling from Ebola-affected regions in West Africa. It asked CAF for a delay. CAF refused, rebuffed Morocco's stance on Ebola fears, and Equatorial Guinea ended up hosting.

The Morocco team was expelled from the 2017 and 2019 tournaments and fined $1 million. CAF also demanded a further $9 million in compensation.

"The executive committee is totally stunned by the decisions taken by the CAF, which has no relation with the conclusion taken after the meeting in Cairo with the president [of the Moroccan federation]," the FRMF said in a statement.

After that January meeting with CAF head Issa Hayatou, the FRMF president, Faouzi Lakjaa, said the penalty would only be financial.

The statement said Lakjaa was empowered to take "all measures he deems appropriate," but did not elaborate on what Morocco might actually do.

According to the local press, the federation is divided between those seeking a negotiated solution with CAF, or appealing their decision to the Court of Arbitration of Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.

There is precedent for sport's highest court overturning CAF's attempts to ban a team from its marquee tournament.

In 2010, Togo successfully appealed its two-tournament ban imposed by Hayatou after the national team refused to play in Angola following a deadly attack on the team bus.

Then, the court asked FIFA president Sepp Blatter to mediate between Togo and CAF, and it ruled that the two-tournament expulsion "did not comply with the CAF competition regulations."

The latest sanctions put more pressure on the strained relationship between North African countries and CAF, which has been led for 27 years by Cameroon's Hayatou.

Last week, CAF suspended Tunisia's federation president and threatened that country with a ban from the next cup if it didn't apologise for suggesting the body was biased against it. Tunisia refused to apologise.

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