Just after completing its sensational performance in the just-ended World Cup in Qatar, Morocco's national football team is now threatening to boycott the African Nations Championship (CHAN) next month in Algeria.
In a letter written to the African Union (AU), the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FMRF) said its team will only compete if there is a direct flight from the Moroccan capital Rabat to the Algerian city of Constantine, where Morocco's games are scheduled to be played.
Fouz Lekjaa, president of the FMRF headed an executive board meeting on Tuesday evening when the ultimatum was made with the added condition that the team must travel with Morocco’s national air franchise, Royal Air Maroc.
The Moroccan football team which made headlines for being the first African country to reach the semi-finals at football’s biggest event is skeptical about its safety during their stay in the neighboring host country for the competition.
In the event that the African Union insists that Morocco travels to Algeria without any special travelling arrangements in place, the Moroccan side might consider missing the CHAN competitions.
Moroccan military and commercial aircraft have been barred from Algerian airspace since the two neighbors severed diplomatic ties last year.
At the heart of the dispute lies the contested Western Sahara, a territory that Morocco annexed in 1975 and that Algeria-backed Saharawis have long sought independence for. The Algerian authorities have not yet responded publicly to the Moroccan demand for direct access.
The African Nations Championship involves players for local clubs and runs from January 13 to February 4 next year.
The draw for the tournament, which permits only players from domestic leagues in Africa took place on Tuesday with Morocco scheduled to play against Sudan, Madagascar, and Ghana (who eliminated Nigeria in the qualifiers) in the group phase.
Morocco defeated Mali in the delayed tournament in Cameroon in 2021 resulting in the Atlas Lions becoming the first nation to win consecutive CHAN titles.
The first match of the seventh edition of CHAN sees Algeria face Libya in Group A on January 13, with Morocco set to play Sudan two days later.
Below is the outcome of the African Nations Championship Draw:
• Group A: Algeria, Libya, Ethiopia, Mozambique.
• Group B: DR Congo, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Senegal.
• Group C: Morocco, Sudan, Madagascar, Ghana.
• Group D: Mali, Angola, Mauritania.
• Group E: Cameroon, Congo, Niger.