Health

How Ebola Broke Sierra Leone’s Heart

In this photo taken Monday, Aug. 11, 2014,  a health worker examines patients for Ebola inside a screening tent, at the Kenema Government Hospital situated in the Eastern Province around 300 km, (186 miles),  from the capital city of Freetown in Kenema, Sierra Leone.  Over the decades, Ebola cases have been confirmed in 10 African countries, including Congo where the disease was first reported in 1976. But until this year, Ebola had never come to West Africa. (AP Photo/ Michael Duff)
In this photo taken Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, a health worker examines patients for Ebola inside a screening tent, at the Kenema Government Hospital situated in the Eastern Province around 300 km, (186 miles), from the capital city of Freetown in Kenema, Sierra Leone. (AP Photo/ Michael Duff)

(CNN) — “Blood, sweat, and tears” on the football pitch used to mean a very different thing in Sierra Leone.

In a country where Ebola is spreading faster than anywhere else on the planet — with around 7,000 reported cases so far — each droplet of bodily fluid evokes suspicion.

Here, even a post-match handshake is an uneasy encounter.

In this fearful new climate, football has been banned. And to sports-obsessed Sierra Leoneans, the embargo is tantamount to forbidding God.

“Football is like a second religion in Sierra Leone,” explained the country’s Football Association president Isha Johansen.

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