Freetown: Sierra Leone`s football authority said on Sunday the team`s upcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers would go ahead despite a devastating Ebola outbreak which has killed more than 1,500 people.
Many African governments have sought to isolate Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the worst hit countries, throwing into doubt a number of sporting fixtures including the Leone Stars` first Group D game against Ivory Coast scheduled for September 6.
But the Sierra Leone Football Association told AFP it was planning to go ahead with the fixture in Abidjan with a 20-man squad consisting entirely of players based abroad.
The Ivory Coast government had said it was refusing to allow the game to be played in Abidjan but the country`s federation had not announced a country ready to host it instead.
Ivory Coast will forfeit the match if it failed to show up for the fixture, SLFA secretary-general Chris Kamara said.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) said it had been informed several weeks ago that the fixture would go ahead in Abidjan and received no information to the contrary since.
CAF spokesman Junior Binyam said however that it had made no ruling on the fixture and that Ivory Coast was "free to host the game wherever they want and inform CAF and (the) Sierra Leone FA of the time and venue".
Sierra Leone were due to travel to the neutral territory of Ghana`s capital, Accra, to play Democratic Republic of Congo on September 10.
The venue has been rearranged, however, and will now go ahead in DR Congo`s second city, Lumumbashi, the SLFA said.
"We are looking forward to winning both matches," Kamara told AFP.
"Our players are all geared up and although they are not home-based, their spirits have not been dampened by the Ebola outbreak. They are eager to bring laurels to the motherland."
The spread of the virus to Senegal and the World Health Organization (WHO) warning that up to 20,000 cases could be reported mean more restrictions can be expected ahead of the Nations Cup finals in Morocco from January 17.
The CAF and the WHO had asked member nations "to avoid huge gatherings of people that could facilitate the spread of the Ebola virus."
But CAF media director Junior Binyam told AFP no qualifying game was under threat.
Guinea is due to play its home game against Togo in the Moroccan city of Casablanca on September 6.