Morocco’s participation in the African Nations Championship hangs in the balance after Algeria reportedly rejected their demands for a direct flight. Morocco had insisted last week that they will boycott the tournament, set to be hosted by Algeria from January 13 – February 4, unless they are allowed to fly directly from the country’s capital Rabat to Constantine where their group stage games will be played.
Morocco FA boss Fouzi Lekjaa had given the ultimatum with the added criteria that the team must travel with Royal Air Maroc, while explaining that the federation had sent correspondence to CAF so that Algeria enforces the specification. However, Algeria has rejected Morocco’s demands in their recent response to CAF adding more fuel to the fire.
“The specifications of a sporting event such as the African Championship of local players stipulates that the host of the competition has the obligation to secure the movements of the delegations of the participating countries on the national territory,” said head of the orgainsing committee Rachid Oukali. “There is no direct air connection obligation. The majority of participating teams will have to make stopovers.” He said.
The two North African countries severed diplomatic ties in 2021, after which Algeria closed its airspace; but the Morocco FA has maintained that the Atlas Lions will only partake if they are allowed to fly in directly. Algeria’s response leaves Morocco with limited options and given the strained diplomatic relations between the North African neighbours, the Atlas Lions could be a high-profile miss from the biennial tournament.
Morocco, the defending champions that defeated Mali in the delayed tournament in Cameroon in 2021 to become the first nation to win consecutive Chan titles, are to be represented by their U-23 side in the competition reserved for players who participate in Africa’s domestic leagues. It will be interesting to see how Morocco responds as the tournament is just 10 days away, and the Atlas Lions’ non-participation would be particularly disappointing in light of their magnificent exploits at the recent World Cup in Qatar.