The ordeal of the Rebirth of Berkane football team at Algiers airport

This Friday, the Moroccan football team Rebirth of Berkane experienced a turbulent day at Algiers international airport: their equipment was confiscated, their luggage was thoroughly searched for T-shirts with the map of Morocco, and police violence was used to expel the players from the terminal
Jugadores de fútbol de equipo marroquí en aeropuerto argelino
Moroccan team's football players at Algerian airport

It all started very well. On arrival at Algiers' Houari Boumediene International Airport at around 11 a.m., the Moroccan delegation, which had flown directly from Oujda on a special flight, was greeted with flowers by the officials of USM Alger, their CAF Cup semi-final opponents. Relations between the two clubs are extremely cordial. Both won the CAF trophy with the same coach, Algerian Abdelhak Bencheikha, in 2022 for Berkane and in 2024 for USM Alger.

Just when the players had boarded the bus that was to take them to the hotel where they had settled, they were asked to return to the airport for a thorough search of their luggage. The purpose of the search was none other than to confiscate the T-shirts bearing the Moroccan emblem in the form of a map of the kingdom. In the meantime, all the equipment was confiscated. The Moroccan delegation refused to leave the airport without recovering their belongings. 

It took until late in the afternoon for the Moroccan delegation to finally settle into their quarters, having received assurances from CAF representatives that their equipment would be returned to them and that they would wear their shirts in accordance with the rules of the Confederation of African Football. Despite the fact that the Algerian authorities are adamant that the Moroccans should not play in a shirt bearing a complete geographical map of the Kingdom. 

Cartel de partido de fútbol entre equipo marroquí y equipo argelino
Poster of a football match between a Moroccan team and an Algerian team

They have suggested that they wear sticky tape to hide what they cannot see. Their ignorance of FIFA and CAF regulations could cost Algerian football dearly. An exclusion from international football bodies or, at the very least, a two-year suspension from all international competitions. 

It is not for a third country to decide what is and what is not allowed to be worn on the shirt of an opposing football team. Moreover, as the Algerian authorities ignore, the shirts of teams participating in CAF competitions are approved by a committee appointed by the CAF. And the shirt of the Moroccan team in question has been validated by the CAF and no one has the right to challenge it. On the other hand, Algeria risks being sanctioned for mixing sport and politics, in violation of article 4 of FIFA's regulations.

The theory put forward by some Algerian media, according to which "the Moroccans have come to provoke by wanting to wear a shirt they have never worn", is quickly disproved by the posters of previous matches played by the same team in the same competition, which can be consulted on the CAF website.