CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Liberia can host international soccer matches again after being declared free of the deadly Ebola virus, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) said on Friday.
CAF, however, said the bans on Guinea and Sierra Leone would remain in place.
Liberia was earlier this month declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organisation (WHO), who wrote to CAF to suggest international football could safely resume.
The decision to lift the ban on playing international matches in the country comes just weeks before the start of the 2017 African Nations Cup qualifiers.
Liberia’s first home qualifier is scheduled for September when they play Tunisia.
Guinea and Sierra Leone will still be forced to play their home games outside of their respective countries with new cases of the disease still being discovered.
“WHO confirms that the situation of the Ebola epidemic in Guinea and Sierra Leone requires that CAF keeps its precautionary principle, and asks the concerned teams to organize their matches on a neutral ground,” CAF said in a statement.
Liberia and Guinea have been drawn together in a two-legged qualifier for the 2016 African Nations Championship, a competition open only to players who ply their trade in their domestic league.
Liberia’s first home match is set to be when they host the second leg in early July. The venue for Guinea’s home fixture two weeks earlier has not yet been set.
Sierra Leone played their home matches in the qualifiers for the 2015 Nations Cup in Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Ivory Coast, while Guinea went north to Morocco.
According to WHO, more than 11,000 people have lost their lives in the Ebola outbreak in west Africa since the first reported case in March 2014, with Liberia suffering the most deaths.
Reporting by Nick Said; editing by Toby Davis