The Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) regretted that an official response to its request to allow the national team to travel to Constantine via the team's official airline, Royal Air Maroc (RAM), has not been confirmed. In December 2022, the FRMF sent a request to the Confederation of African Football (CAF). It emphasised that Morocco would not participate in the tournament if Algeria refused to allow the Moroccan delegation to fly directly from Rabat to Constantine on the country's official airline, Royal Air Maroc.
The tensions being generated by the inconvenience suffered by the Alawi team have led to a number of countries taking a stand in favour of Rabat. Egypt, Tunisia, Cameroon and Uganda are among the countries that, despite apologising, will not take part in what they consider a competition "tainted by Algeria". "Although the trip of the Alawi team from Rabat to Constantine is organised by the FRMF, and the draw for the crossings and the group stage is scheduled for the 13th of January 2023, i.e. in 24 hours, the FRMF notes the situation with regret. Unfortunately, the flight from Rabat to Constantine has not yet been confirmed by CAF," FRMF regretted.
Amid Algeria's emphasis and ambiguity, Algerian media stressed that the absence of an official response indicates the North African country's refusal to accept Morocco's request. Last week, Algeria's Sports Minister Abderrazak Sebgag promised that his country would communicate its response to Morocco's request through "official channels". "The FAF will respond to CAF through official channels. Algeria has its laws, its sovereignty which is above all considerations," he said. However, Algerian news outlet TAS emphasised that Sebgag's comments "signify Algeria's rejection" of Morocco's request.
Tensions between the two countries are well known and were exacerbated in 2021 after Algeria accused Morocco of interfering in its internal affairs. The Algerian regime also closed its airspace and cut ties with Morocco in 2021. Relations between neighbours have historically been strained due to Algerian support for separatism in the Western Sahara region of southern Morocco. But the long-running diplomatic dispute between the two countries reached a new high point in August last year after Algiers announced its decision to cut all ties with Rabat while Moroccan diplomacy made remarkable progress on the Western Sahara issue, receiving significant international support.
As justification for its decision to cut ties with Morocco, Algeria accused the Moroccan kingdom of trying to undermine Algerian interests and destabilise the country. In particular, Algiers accused Rabat, without evidence, of involvement in the forest fires that ravaged Algeria's northern regions last year. With this decision, Morocco joins countries such as Uganda, Egypt and Cameroon (the current champions) in not participating in the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations (CHAN) in Algeria, which is scheduled to start in April this year.
The organisation of the tournament is going to be complicated to say the least. While the main favourites have decided not to attend, not having enough countries participating will mean that the format of the competition will have to be changed for the first time in 30 years, adulterating it from the outset. All this turmoil will be a blow to a continent that is on the rise in football, as reflected in Morocco's results at the World Cup, or the persistent appearance of African players or players of African origin on the lists of candidates for the Golden Ball.