The Royal Moroccan Football Federation (Federation of Football in Morocco) has announced that it will withdraw from the upcoming African Nations Championship in Algeria unless the team is allowed to travel directly from the Moroccan capital Rabat to Constantine in Algeria.
This announcement came in light of tensions between the two neighboring countries in North Africa, which led to Algeria’s decision to close its airspace to all Moroccan civil and military aircraft in 2021.
The Moroccan Football Federation insisted that the Atlas Lions, who made history in the Qatar 2022 World Cup when they became the first African country to reach the semi-finals of the tournament, would not participate unless they traveled directly from Morocco to Algeria and arrived by plane in the city of Constantine, which will witness their matches in the round. The groups, on board the Moroccan Royal Air Force.
The draw for the tournament, which only allows the participation of players from local leagues in Africa, took place on Tuesday, and the Moroccan national team signed in Group C against Madagascar, Sudan and Ghana, which knocked out Nigeria in the qualifiers.
Faouzi Lakjaa, president of the Moroccan Football Federation, presided over the executive council meeting on Tuesday night and decided to issue an ultimatum to withdraw if Algeria did not allow direct travel on Royal Air Maroc.
The Moroccan Federation stated, in a press statement, that it had sent a letter to the African Union regarding “respecting the terms of hosting the African Championships, especially with regard to facilitating the conditions of the participating teams.”
The statement added that he demanded that the national team travel to the city of Constantine, which will host the matches of the Moroccan elite in this tournament, via a direct flight, “from the city of Rabat and by means of a private plane of Royal Air Maroc, the official carrier of the national teams.”
And the statement stressed that: “In the event that this is refused, the Directorate Office unanimously decided not to participate in this tournament.”
The federation decided to participate in the tournament with an under-23 team, instead of the local team that won its title in the last two versions in 2018 at home and 2020 in Cameroon, and became the first country to win the tournament twice in a row.
The first match of the seventh edition will see Algeria meet Libya in Group A on January 13th, with Morocco preparing to face Sudan two days later.
The draw for the African Nations Championship:
Group A: Algeria, Libya, Ethiopia and Mozambique.
Group B: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal.
Group C: Morocco, Sudan, Madagascar, Ghana.
Group D: Mali, Angola and Mauritania.
Group E: Cameroon, Congo and Niger.