Politics and sport are persistently two elements that should not go hand in hand but which, at the same time, are inseparable. This alliance does not understand borders, championships or classes. The cocktail they form is always highly criticised, although this time it has gone a step further. The social networks were ablaze with criticism of the statements made by Mandla Mandela, Nelson Mandela's grandson. In his speech, the grandson of the late South African activist and hero of South African society in his struggle against apartheid, incited violence against the Kingdom of Morocco. The spectacle was witnessed by the president of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the African Cup of Nations (CAF), who did not show any reluctance at any time.
Imprisoned by the situation, the Algerian authorities took advantage of the organisation of an international sporting competition on their soil, taking advantage of Nelson Mandela's grandson to politically and publicly attack Morocco. At the opening of the championship, Mandla attacked Morocco and its territorial integrity, with a clear insinuation of the Algerian regime, saying: "Let us not forget the last colony that still exists in Africa, the Sahara. Let us fight to free the Sahara from injustice"; in the stadium named after his grandfather, South African leader Nelson Mandela. These words have provoked indignation in Rabat, where support for his thesis on the former Spanish colony on the African continent continues to be one of the unresolved issues of his aggressive foreign policy.
Taking advantage of a moment of tension between two neighbours to feed the rancour machine is the behaviour of "weak souls". The problem is not anyone's position on the Sahara conflict, which is a personal assessment, but the problem is fuelling hatred between peoples at a sporting event. Activists launched the hashtag #Moroccan_Sahara to express their support for Morocco's territorial integrity and reject empty political propaganda. Some called on FIFA to take appropriate action against Algeria's exploitation of a sporting event to endorse a political agenda that included incitement. The Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRFM) said in a statement that there were "racist expressions directed against Moroccan fans".
The FRFM said that this was a blatant violation of the laws governing football sporting events under the CAF flag and clarified that it had written to the federation to take full responsibility for such violations. In addition, it added that the vile practices and absurd manoeuvres that accompanied the opening of the competition are fallacies that have nothing to do with the beautiful game. Journalists such as Radouane El Ramdani claimed that Mandela's speech was the result of Algeria's failure to get important authorities to attend the event.
Mandla Mandela, nieto de Nelson Mandela llama a los pueblos africanos a luchar por la liberación de la última colonia en Africa, el Sáhara Occidental. pic.twitter.com/4CE53bqzR3— Taleb Alisalem (@TalebSahara) January 15, 2023
It is curious how in a sporting event where youth footballers, who are minors, participate and whose greatest desire is to find a club that will give them the opportunity to succeed in what they like the most, politics is discussed, and even more so with the aggressiveness with which it was done. It cannot be ruled out that the speech was "instructed" by army chief Said Chengriha and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, according to the journalists present, such as Radouane El Ramdani, mentioned above. The Algerian media followed the dictates of authority and celebrated Mandla's speech, saying it "inflamed the enthusiasm of the masses" who attended the opening ceremony.
The attacks on the Alawi nation did not end there. Several racist chants against Moroccans could be detected in the stands of the newly opened Nelson Mandela Stadium. Such acts not only degrade relations between the two states, but also damage the image of Algerian football and above all of African football. "Give them bananas, Moroccan, you're an animal!" is one of the shameful chants that could be heard among the fans during the opening match between Algeria and Libya, again in the presence of FIFA president Gianni Infantino and CAF president Patrice Motsepe.
In the light of these attacks, the FRFM has asked the FIFA Disciplinary Committee to open a case against the Algerian Football Federation (AFA) for the infringement of article 13 of the Disciplinary Code for the racist chants that took place on 13 January during the match between Libya and Algeria. This article deals with discrimination, specifying that "any person who attacks the dignity or integrity of a country, a person or a group by using derogatory, discriminatory or vexatious words or actions". The FRFM also regrets that Moroccan Internet users responded to the racist Algerian chants via Twitter and called for sanity.