Morocco, Algeria shirt dispute over Western Sahara sees football match cancelled

Morocco, Algeria shirt dispute over Western Sahara sees football match cancelled
The African Confederation Cup match between Renaissance Berkane and USM Alger was called off over a shirt dispute involving Western Sahara.
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Renaissance Berkane refused to change their shirts, leading to the match with USM Alger being cancelled just before kick off [Getty]

An African Confederation Cup match between USM Alger and Moroccan team Renaissance Berkane was cancelled just before kickoff on Sunday after a dispute over the Moroccan club's jerseys.

The row began on Friday morning when the Moroccan squad arrived in Algeria ahead of the first leg of the semi-final.

Algerian media reported that customs officers confiscated Berkane's shirts on the grounds that they carried a map of Morocco that included the disputed Western Sahara.

Shortly before Sunday's scheduled 1900 GMT kick off, USM Alger sporting director Toufik Korichi told Algerian radio that the match would not be played because Berkane refused to take to the pitch in any other 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.

Algeria broke off diplomatic relations with Morocco in 2021, partly over the issue.

On Saturday, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) responded to an appeal against the shirts by the Algerian football federation (FAF) by ruling in favour of Berkane, saying the club had been wearing the same jerseys since the start of the tournament.

FAF President Wafi Sadi then announced that he intended to take the case to the "international court of sport".

"Our position is clear, we will not back down and we are ready for anything," he added.

On Sunday, the Cairo-based CAF issued a statement saying it had rejected a FAF appeal.

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Sadi then announced that the Moroccan team would be provided with "high-quality shirts" without the map.

Berkane refused to wear them.

"There will be no debate on this subject. There will be no match without shirts with the complete map of the Kingdom of Morocco," Hakim Benabdellah, the Berkane president, was quoted as saying by Moroccan media outlet Hespress.