Morocco’s victorious World Cup ended nearly a month ago, and the team is already about to compete in a new tournament. The team was supposed to start at the African Nations Championship, but they decided to withdraw the day before the competition started. RIA Novosti Sport talks about how politics is again intervening in sport.
The fact is that Algeria is the host of the Championship. The tournament itself will take place from January 13 to February 4. However, Moroccans decided to refuse to travel to a hostile country, as they have long had strained relations with their neighbors.
Argued over France
France can be called the instigator of the conflict between Morocco and Algeria. Both countries were colonies of the European state. In those days, France redrawn the border between Algeria and Morocco several times, which caused tensions in the future.
When the countries gained their independence, the Moroccans immediately claimed land. In 1956, he came to a full-fledged military conflict. In total, there are 1,900 kilometers of common border between the neighbors. However, the subject of the dispute is a plot of land ten times smaller. Next to it was a large deposit of iron ore on the territory of Algeria. Both sides of the conflict wanted to possess it.
After the clashes, the situation calmed down over time. Tensions continued between the countries, but the border itself was open. Everything changed in 1994 when Morocco introduced a visa regime to all Algerian citizens following one of the terrorist attacks in the capital. In response, neighbors have closed the land border.
In this regime, countries have existed for a quarter of a century until the conflict escalated a few years ago. Clashes broke out on the border and countries started accusing each other of provoking. Diplomatic relations between Morocco and Algeria broke down. It is impossible to go directly from one country to another because now even the air border is closed.
Due to the aggravation of the situation, it became clear that the Moroccans had to make a special plan for a trip to the African Championship of Nations. After all, the place of the tournament was chosen even before the new confrontation of the sides.
Algeria refused to accept flight from Morocco
It should be clear that the African Nations Championship is not the African Nations Cup. For the tournament, teams collect squads only from players playing in local championships. Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane were not expected in the competitions. But the Championship is an important tournament for Africa. Their matches are shown in France, USA, Australia and other countries.
Morocco has won the last two tournaments and was preparing to maintain its championship status in Algeria. The composition was promised to bring war. However, three players from the local championship applied for the team’s World Cup in Qatar.
A few months before the start of the tournament, the parties announced that they had verbally agreed on a special permit for the Moroccan team, which can fly directly to Algeria. Time passed, but the parties were in no hurry to put the agreement on paper.
In December, the Royal Moroccan Football Federation announced that it would boycott the tournament if Algeria did not fulfill its promise. A day before the start, it was learned that the host country would not allow the Moroccan airline for the flight.
The Moroccan team was supposed to play in the same group as the national teams of Ghana, Sudan and Madagascar. The Grid was arranged so that Algeria and Morocco could only meet in the final. As a result, one team will miss the tournament, because it is impossible to organize the arrival of another team to replace the day.
A few hours after the Moroccan federation’s official announcement of the withdrawal, rumors arose that the situation had changed urgently. AFP reported flight clearance. However, no one confirmed this information, so the Moroccan boycott remained in effect.
Morocco and Algeria fought on the football field
This is not the first time sport has suffered as the political conflict between Algeria and Morocco intensifies. The Algerian city of Oran hosted the Mediterranean Games last year. It was agreed in advance that Moroccan journalists would be allowed into the tournament, but on arrival the opposite happened.
The Algerian police did not allow them to enter and did not allow them to leave the airport, where the press had to spend several days. But most of the scandals were directly related to football.
When the Moroccan team presented the 2022 World Cup jersey, Algeria immediately made a harsh statement. Neighbors thought Moroccans depicted the zellige mosaic pattern on their t-shirts. Algerians consider it their cultural heritage.
It even went as far as the attack. Last year, the youth teams of Morocco and Algeria met in the Arab Nations Cup final. Everything was decided in the penalty shootout, and after the decisive blow, the teams fought fiercely.
Despite the obvious tension between the countries, FIFA and the African Football Federation have not officially announced that the teams will be separated in the tournament draw. True, unknowingly, competitors find themselves at different ends of the grid each time.
The next football tournament will be held without a strong team, which many call the tournament favourites. Unfortunately, politics continues to influence the sport, depriving fans of a real vacation.
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