Morocco players finally refused to travel to Algeria to play CHAN. The tension has risen a notch between Algiers and Rabat.
Everything seemed set for the Atlas Lions finally go to Algeria, after the delay in issuing the flight authorization that Algiers was to grant to Royal Air Maroc. In the end, this is not the case and Morocco has decided to withdraw from the African Nations Football Championship (CHAN), of which it has won the last two editions.
It is therefore on the sports field that the Algerian-Moroccan crisis is being played out today. And it won't stop there. Indeed, after the withdrawal of Morocco, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) will have to decide. On the one hand, the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) will plead the non-collaboration of the Moroccan authorities. But, according to the president of the Algerian Football Federation (FAF), Djahid Zefizef, "important decisions" will be taken by the Executive Board of CAF. Understand decisions against Morocco.
Because if the wrongs are shared, it is indeed the FRMF which took risks by not going to Algeria. The CHAN rules stipulate, in their article 80, that "a withdrawal declared less than twenty days before the start of the final competition or during this one, will result in addition to the loss of the right of entry, a fine of 150 dollars Americans as well as the suspension of the association concerned for the next two editions of the African Nations Championship, except in cases of force majeure as defined by the CAF Organizing Committee”.
It is therefore a debate that will begin within CAF to find out whether or not there has been a “case of force majeure”. Morocco will in any case insist on the non-delivery of the authorization for his flight. Fouzi Lekjaa, the boss of Moroccan football, assures that his players have been "deprived" of competition by the Algerian authorities. But Algeria should remind the CAF Executive Board that its airspace has been closed for Moroccan aircraft a long time ago – in September 2021 – and that the FRMF could have flown via a foreign company.
Still, Lekjaa is an influential man. CAF President Patrice Motsepe owes a lot to the FRMF President and should therefore plead Morocco's cause. Will Motsepe and Lekjaa be heard by the members of the Executive Board? Answer in a few weeks.
Meanwhile, this is another fact that has angered the Royal Moroccan Football Federation. The opening ceremony of the CHAN has indeed no more to the FRMF, which wrote to the CAF to denounce the remarks of Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela. The South African indicated that "one last colony is present in Africa: Western Sahara" and deplored the "oppression" of Morocco in this region.
A political exit which provoked the ire of Morocco, which indicated that these remarks had "no relation, either directly or indirectly, with a sports competition". If the speech of the grandson of Madiba can be understood, since it was a question of inaugurating the Mandela stadium, the football authorities refuse to mix international politics and sport.
In a letter addressed to the CAF, the FRMF asks for “measures and provisions” to sanction Algeria, as well as an independent “emergency” investigation.
The CHAN, barely started, is therefore already ruined. Because these next few days, it will be difficult to talk about football, and between Algiers and Rabat, everything should now be played before the courts of CAF or even sport.