South Africa is no longer interested in staging the Fifa Club World Cup in December because of the country’s ongoing Covid situation.
The South African FA (Safa) had previously downplayed any fears of coronavirus hampering its bid for the tournament that features Fifa’s continental club champions.
“Safa’s National Executive Committee resolved that [it] will not be pursuing the matter of hosting the event,” the body said in a statement on Saturday.
“For South Africa to host the Fifa Club World Cup, the nation needs to reach the 70 per cent vaccination threshold.”
As it stands, South Africa has vaccinated just under a third of its adult population of just under 40m.
South Africa’s withdrawal leaves the United Arab Emirates, the only other country to have made a formal expression of interest to Fifa as of late September, as the frontrunner to host the event.
When announcing its bid last month, Safa spokesperson Dominic Chimhavi had rallied that South Africa’s improved vaccination roll-out would resolve any such concerns.
In the past three months, fourteen million people have been jabbed – so reducing the number of daily cases from some 20,000 cases per day to around 1-2,000.
“Everything will be under control by December. We are on a massive vaccination drive,” Chimhavi told BBC Sport Africa in mid-September.
While the drive may be ongoing, it has not come quick enough to get the vaccination rate over 70% while South Africa’s situation is adjudged to still be serious enough to remain on the British government’s red-list.
“South Africa is currently red-listed by Great Britain where European champions Chelsea will come from, another possible hindrance to the process,” added Safa.
Anyone travelling to the United Kingdom from a red-list country must spend 10 days in quarantine upon arrival, but the rules have been amended for footballers playing in the World Cup this month.
The British government said last week that double-jabbed players can play this month’s World Cup qualifiers in red-list countries and while they must still quarantine upon their return, they can at least now be let out to train or play.
Coronavirus has badly affected this year’s Club World Cup, whose original hosts Japan withdrew from staging the competition in early September because of coronavirus issues.
At the same meeting, Safa’s NEC announced its support for Fifa’s proposal that both the men’s and women’s World Cups should be held every two years.
It added that it would also encourage football’s world governing body to revisit the rotation system to avoid one or two continents monopolising World Cup hosting in future.