Double trouble. Algeria’s USM refuse to take pitch over RS Berkane’s Moroccan map shirt

April 29 – For the second straight week, an African Confederation Cup match between Renaissance Berkane of Morocco and Algeria’s USM Alger was cancelled in a dispute over a map on the Moroccan team’s shirts. 

Last week, The Confederation of African Football (CAF) awarded Berkane a 3-0 win after the first leg of the semi-final between the sides was cancelled at the 11th hour, the Moroccans refusing to take the field in alternative shirts after their own ones were confiscated by Algerian officials because of the presence of a map of Morocco that included the disputed Western Sahara region..

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.

On Sunday in Berkane tensions were ramped up again when, this time, USM refused to take the field for the return leg, the stadium announcer declaring the match had been cancelled.

Before kick-off, Renaissance supporters deliberately held up a banner with a map of Morocco showing the disputed territory. As a result, Moroccan television reported that the USM team left the stadium just before the scheduled kickoff.

The Algerian football federation has lodged an appeal against the 3-0 first-leg sanction with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, arguing that CAF had “validated the request of the Moroccan club, RS Berkane, to wear a shirt with a political message”.

Meanwhile RS Berkane will now host Zamalek in the first leg of Africa’s continental club tournament on May 12, with the return the following week in Cairo.

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