Equatorial Guinea says it will be ready for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations which starts this weekend. As David Pollard reports, the tiny country offered to host the event at the last minute after Morocco pulled out due to fears about Ebola.
The Don Gaspar football academy in Malabo. Boys and girls get an equal shout when it comes to playing here in the capital of Equatorial Guinea. No gender divide - and no division on welcoming the Africa Cup either, says coach Armando Bocari. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) ARMANDO BOCARI, FOOTBALL COACH AT "DON GASPAR" SCHOOL SAYING: "I think it's very good we are hosting the event even though it was rejected by other countries. We have accepted to host it because we are Africans and this is our continent's cup." The decision to host Africa's showpiece football event came very late. And there have been concerns over whether it'll be ready - even more over Ebola. Original hosts - Morocco - got cold feet over fears visiting fans might import the deadly disease, which has claimed over 5,000 lives in West Africa. It's a worry here too in a country with a population of less than a million. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) MEMBER OF THE FEMALE TEAM AT "DON GASPAR" SCHOOL, BASILISA MANGUE SAYING: "We are afraid of that disease because it is very bad. We are very few. If it gets here nobody will survive." But without Equatorial Guinea stepping in, the event might have been cancelled altogether. Eight teams came when it co-hosted the Cup two years ago. This time there'll be twice that number. Given only two months to prepare for the tournament, it says it's pulling out all the stops. Manuel Cawan, deputy minister of sport. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) EQUATORIAL GUINEA DEPUTY MINISTER OF SPORT, MANUEL SABINO ASUMU CAWAN SAYING: "There is a little bit of delay regarding some aspects of the stadiums. Stadiums at Ebebiyin and Mongomo are built at eighty percent and we would have been slower at finishing them if we didn't have to think about the Cup. But since we have to get them ready for the Cup, construction work is being expedited." One thing there seems little doubt about: whether it can foot the event's 40 million dollar bill. Equatorial Guinea is one of Africa's tiniest nations. But its size far outstripped by oil and natural gas wealth - per capita income estimated at around 14,000 dollars. And - by ambition. Coaches like Armando confident the Cup will inspire more players to make it to the big time.