Defending champions of the African Nations Championship (CHAN), Morocco, have officially announced they will not take part in this month’s tournament.
The decision to pull out of the competition was made official just a day ahead of the commencement in Algeria.
The Atlas Lions had been drawn into Group C, where they would have faced Sudan, Madagascar and Ghana.
But what went into the decision for the Moroccan FA to announce their decision to pull out of the 2022 CHAN tournament?
Apparently, Morocco had been threatening to not play in the competition for quite some time now over travel arrangements.
Morocco’s Football Federation had mentioned they were going to withdraw from their title defence until they are allowed a direct flight from Rabat.
However, Algeria has closed its airspace to all Moroccan flights since 2021 following a cut in their diplomatic ties.
In times past, there has been a tense relationship between both Algeria and Morocco since their independence following Algeria’s support for Polisario, a separatist movement in the Western Sahara region of Morocco.
The border between the two countries has been closed since 1994 while Algiers also cut all ties with Rabat in August 2021.
Hence, Algeria’s inability to give access to a direct flight from Rabat to Algiers led to Morocco also announcing its decision to pull out of the tournament.
At a press conference, the President of the sports events organising committee, Rachid Oukali, said: “We are only obliged to provide transport for the participating teams within the national territory”.
The CHAN 2022 starts on Friday, January 13 and won’t see joint-record title holders Morocco at the seventh edition.