The non-battle of Algiers

The semi final in the African Confederations Cup between USM Alger and RS Berkane was never played. As the home side and fans were waiting in the stadium, the away side chose to fly back to Morocco without ever entering the pitch. 

By Pål Ødegård

Even though everyone else – match officials, 40,000 spectators, broadcasters, journalists and the home side – had shown up for the clash between USM Alger and RS Berkane at Stade 5 Juillet in Algiers, most weren’t too surprised that the visiting team decided to not enter the field. Simply because it had been all over the nation’s news and social media since two days before, as the visiting team had descended at Algiers international airport. There, local security authorities confiscated their jerseys, forcing the Moroccans to wait for hours at the airport, where they waited to be handed back the shirts they needed for the match. After killing time doing light exercise and performing their Friday prayers, the African football confederation (Caf) assured them that they would be handed back their luggage the next morning, that they could leave for their hotel and prepare for the match on Sunday night. Caf simultaneously instructed the Algerians that RS Berkane were permitted to wear the shirts.

The reason for the controversy was that the shirts displayed a map outlay of Morocco on its chest. Or, more specifically, it was because the map of Morocco included the territory of Western Sahara. The region is an issue of he...

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