Morocco will not defend their African Nations Championship (Chan) title after withdrawing from the 2023 tournament that kicks off today. Hosts Algeria refused Morocco’s demands for a direct flight from Rabat to Constantine, where their group matches were to be held, due to the icy diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The two countries cut diplomatic ties in August 2021 after which they closed the airspace with all direct flights between them suspended. Morocco had in December threatened to pull out of the biennial tournament, unless they were allowed to fly in directly from their capital, Rabat, aboard the country’s national airline, Royal Air Maroc (RAM), a demand they sent to CAF, which Algeria flatly rejected.
The Atlas Lions had been pooled in Group C alongside Ghana, Madagascar and Sudan; but their withdrawal complicates matters for CAF, and the federation will have to do without one of the star teams at the tournament. Morocco had played two friendly matches against Ethiopia early this week in readiness for the tournament which they had hoped to attend. The North Africans are likely to face sanctions from CAF, following their late withdrawal.
Morocco had defeated Mali in the delayed tournament in Cameroon in 2021 to become the first nation to win consecutive Chan titles, and was to be represented by their U23 side in the competition reserved for players who participate in Africa’s domestic leagues.