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May 19, 2024

Political Row Mars CAF Confederation Cup Semi-Final as USM Alger Refuse to Play Over Map Dispute

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Political Row Mars Caf Confederation Cup Semi-Final as USM Alger Refuse to Play Over Map Dispute

The second leg of the CAF Confederation Cup semi-final between RS Berkane and USM Alger was called off amidst a contentious dispute over a map of Morocco displayed on the hosts’ football shirt.

The match, scheduled to take place in Morocco, was marred by political tensions as USM Alger refused to take the pitch due to the inclusion of the disputed territory of Western Sahara on Berkane’s kit.

Algeria, which severed diplomatic ties with Morocco in 2021, viewed the map as a political provocation, leading to heightened tensions between the two North African nations.

The extended map, which encompasses Western Sahara, is at the heart of a longstanding territorial dispute dating back to Morocco’s claim to the region in 1957 and subsequent annexation in 1975.

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Berkane supporters displayed a banner included the extended map of Morocco in the stands at the stadium ahead of the second leg

The controversy escalated further as the first leg encounter on April 21st was also cancelled after Berkane had their kit confiscated by Algerian customs officials upon arrival in the country. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) committee penalized USM Alger with a 3-0 defeat in the first leg, a decision upheld by a subsequent appeal dismissal.

USM Alger’s refusal to participate in the second leg casts a shadow over their title defense in the Confederation Cup, with potential further sanctions looming from Caf.

The Algerian Football Federation (FAF) is expected to contest the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, arguing that Berkane’s kit violates FIFA’s equipment regulations prohibiting political statements or images.

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Despite the turmoil, Berkane is poised to advance to the final, where they will face Egyptian giants Zamalek. The club’s consistent use of the controversial jersey throughout the competition underscores the complexities of the political dispute between Algeria and Morocco.

The ongoing border tensions and severed diplomatic ties between the two countries have spilled over into the realm of sports, with the extended map of Morocco triggering controversies not only in football but also in other sports such as handball.

The dispute over Western Sahara, with its rich natural resources and historical significance, remains a contentious issue on the African continent and beyond.

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