CHAN: Morocco hopes dashed after wait at airport

File photo: Morocco players wait at Rabat Airport

CHAN: Morocco hopes dashed after wait at airport

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Morocco players and staff waited at Rabat Airport for several hours hoping for a last-minute deal to allow them to fly direct to Algeria for the CHAN

Hopes of a last-minute deal to allow holders Morocco to defend their African Nations Championship (CHAN) crown look to be over after the Atlas Lions gave up on a forlorn stay at Rabat Airport where they were waiting on permission to fly direct to Algeria.

On Thursday, the Moroccan Football Federation (FMRF) announced it was pulling the squad out of the pan-African competition because no direct flight using Royal Air Maroc was being offered between the two countries.

Diplomatic ties between Morocco and Algeria were officially severed in August 2021.

Despite this, with dialogue between all parties said to be ongoing, players and staff arrived at Rabat Airport on Friday morning hoping for a change of heart – a departure lounge vigil that only ended in disappointment.

“What we are experiencing today, (with) the Moroccan national team present in the waiting room of the airport, is a pity,” FMRF president Faouzi Lekjaa said outside the airport.

“Young people have worked for years and prepared for this championship for months, and prepared on all sides to participate in the championship and to defend the title as well.”

Also at the airport were Gianni Infantino, head of football’s global governing body Fifa, and Patrice Motsepe, president of the Confederation of African Football (Caf), the body organising the CHAN.

“We can’t have this situation where we have these problems,” said Motsepe, who was in Morocco with Infantino for the draw for the 2022 Fifa Club World Cup.

Patrice Motsepe (left), Gianni Infantino (centre) and Faouzi Lekjaa (second from right)

The draw for the 2022 Club World Cup was made in Morocco on Friday in front of Caf CEO Patrice Musembe (left) and Fifa president Gianni Infantino (centre

“We’ve got to look at our roles, look at our laws and it’s key (for) football in Africa people stop seeing us as having some rules we don’t adhere to and we change them all the time.

FIFA President with other sports executives seated

“We have to be professional, we’ve got to be ethical,” Motsepe continued.

“Everybody must comply with our rules and say to Africa and the world that we are serious about African football being amongst the best.”

The CHAN kicks off on Friday, 13 January with hosts Algeria taking on Libya.

Morocco were supposed to play their opening match against Sudan on Sunday. It has yet to be confirmed what their withdrawal means for the format of the competition or whether the Atlas Lions will suffer any form of punishment.

The BBC has asked CAF for comment but is yet to hear back.

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