CAF cup match called off after clubs get shirty over Moroccan map

April 22 – In a major regional dispute, an African Confederation Cup match between USM Alger and Morocco’s Renaissance Berkane was cancelled just moments before kickoff on Sunday because of a row over the Moroccan club’s shirts.

The saga began two days previously when the Moroccan squad arrived in Algeria ahead of the first leg of the semi-final.

Algerian media outlets reported that customs officers confiscated Berkane’s shirts, citing the presence of a map of Morocco that included the disputed Western Sahara region.

As tensions escalated, the match was called off when Berkane refused to take to the pitch in alternative shirts.

The former Spanish colony of Western Sahara is largely controlled by Morocco but claimed by the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, which seeks the territory’s independence. The dispute has previously led to Algeria severing diplomatic ties with Morocco in 2021.

In response to an appeal filed by the Algerian Football Federation (FAF) against the shirts, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) ruled in favour of Berkane on Saturday, stating that the club had been using the same shirts since the tournament began.

But FAF refused to abide by the CAF ruling, with its president Wafi Sadi declaring his federation would take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and asserting: “Our position is clear, we will not back down, and we are ready for anything.”

Despite being offered alternative “high-quality shirts” devoid of the disputed map, Berkane president Hakim Benabdellah stood firm.

“There will be no debate on this subject. There will be no match without shirts with the complete map of the Kingdom of Morocco,” he was reported as saying. The game was promptly called off leaving the fate of the encounter uncertain.

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