CHAN 2022: Morocco participation in doubt as FA dissolves camp over direct flight request standoff
"At the moment, no decision has been taken by the Federation about a possible boycott..." says a source.
Players of the Morocco team for the 2022 Championship of African Nations (CHAN) have been released to their respective clubs, some two days before the tournament kicks off in Algeria.
The back-to-back champions – who have decided to compete with their U-23 side – are on record to have just weeks ago threatened to boycott the tournament over a request to fly directly from Rabat with the country’s official carrier Royal Air Maroc to Constantine where they are scheduled to play all their Group C matches.
Host country Algeria however rejected the demand with the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) Chairman Rachid Oukali explaining in a press conference on December 28 that it is not their responsibility to ensure that.
“We are obliged to provide transportation for the participating teams only within the national territory. Most of the African countries that will come to Algeria will make stopovers.”
Moreover, there is a long-standing diplomatic feud between the two countries. Their relations hit a new low in August 2022 after Algiers announced its decision to cut all ties with Rabat.
This CHAN disagreement is the latest in a series of overt and subtle tensions between Algeria and Morocco. While land borders between the two countries have remained closed since 1994, tensions were exacerbated in August 2021 after Algeria closed its airspace to Morocco.
Morocco FA president Faouzi Lekjaa announced that Morocco had sent its request to both the Algerian authorities and the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Lekjaa has insisted that Algeria, as the host country, “should be responsible” for putting in place all measures to facilitate teams’ participation in the continental tournament.
Algeria’s Minister of Sports Abderrazak Sebgag, last week, vowed that his country would communicate its response to Morocco’s request through “official channels,” but hinted at Algiers’ rejection of the Moroccan demand.
“The FAF will respond to CAF via official channels. Algeria has its laws, its sovereignty which is above all consideration,” he said.
But as of Wednesday, January 11, Morocco are yet to receive an expected direct response to their request and hence the Football Federation (FRMF) has been left with no choice but to disperse the squad from the training camp at the Mohammed VI Football Complex to go back to their clubs.
A source at the FRMF has been quoted by Le360 as saying: “The federation has decided to allow players to join their respective clubs so that they do not remain hostage in an ambiguous situation.
The source added that the federation, however, told the players to remain reachable in the event of a last-minute response from the Algerian authorities.
“At the moment, no decision has been taken by the Federation about a possible boycott of CHAN. The reaction will be made in light of Algeria’s response.”
A number of the participating countries have already arrived in Algeria as CHAN 2022 kicks off on Friday, January 13.
Morocco are scheduled to kick-start their title defense against Sudan on January 15 before games against Madagascar and the Black Galaxies of Ghana.