The Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) has threatened to boycott the upcoming African Nations Championship unless host country Algeria agrees to its requests.
FRMF President Fouzi Lekjaa is demanding that a direct Royal Air Maroc flight is set up from Rabat to Constantine, where the Moroccan national team is due to play its group matches.
Algerian authorities have previously closed its airspace to Morocco and remains adamant in its stance.
“We are only obliged to provide transport for the participating teams within the national territory,” said Organising Committee President Rachid Oukali, explaining that it was not the body’s responsibility to provide direct flights, as reported by Atalayar.
“Most of the African countries coming to Algeria will have stopovers.”
The Moroccan National Press Council has also sent a letter to President Patrice Motsepe of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) asking for Algeria to guarantee Moroccan journalists the freedom of the press, freedom of expression and human rights at the Championship.
These conditions have been granted to journalists of other countries.
At the Oran 2022 Mediterranean Games, nine Moroccan journalists were trapped at the airport when Algerian police refused them entry but also did not allow them to fly back home.
Authorities claimed that the journalists had no media accreditation despite the Moroccan National Olympic Committee stating it had met deadlines for the passes.
Reporters Without Borders condemned this as “an unacceptable obstacle to journalistic work”.
As the event’s organiser, CAF is expected to intervene with Algerian authorities to ensure that the Moroccan delegate can have safe entry into the country and that journalists have the freedom of the press.
“We are waiting for an official response from CAF on our request before deciding on our participation,” said Lekjaa, as reported by Atalayar.
A dispute over Western Sahara has caused a deep-rooted rift and mistrust between Algeria and Morocco since Spain abandoned it in 1975.
Algeria did not assert any territorial claims of its own but was averse to the absorption of it to any of its neighbours and supported a move for the area’s independence.
The borders between the two have been closed since 1994, costing each country an estimated two per cent of their annual growth rate.
The football federations of Egypt, Tunisia, Cameroon and Uganda are said to be displeased over Algeria’s treatment of the Moroccan delegation prior to the tournament.
The Championship is scheduled to take place from January 13 to February 4, with World Cup semi-finalists Morocco drawn into Group C with Sudan, Madagascar, and Ghana.
The Libyan Football Federation (LFF) has also hinted at the possibility of withdrawing from the Championship relating to the freezing of its accounts by local courts, which it feels violates FIFA and CAF rules.
“We are now in the process of preparing to participate in a continental championship, and our team is in a training camp in Tunisia,” an LFF statement read, as reported by GhanaWeb.
“We may have to withdraw if the capabilities are not available.
“The Federation also has obligations with the foreign coach and his technical staff, who are bound by contracts and salaries to be paid on time.”
The African Nations Championship is a biennial competition that was first played in 2009.
Participating countries must have teams made up completely of players that play for domestic club sides.