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Morocco map row: Second game involving USM Alger called off

Written by on April 30, 2024

A row over a map of Morocco displayed on a football shirt deepened as the second leg of the Caf Confederation Cup semi-final between RS Berkane and USM Alger was called off on Sunday.

USM Alger refused to take to the pitch in Morocco because the strip the hosts were wearing showed a map of the country which included the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Algeria, which cut off diplomatic ties with its North African neighbour in 2021, sees the extended map as a political provocation.

Morocco laid claim to Western Sahara in 1957, when it was still under Spanish colonial rule, and then annexed the territory in 1975.

The first leg on Sunday, 21 April had also been cancelled after Berkane had their kit confiscated by customs officials on arrival in Algeria and refused to wear an alternative shirt.

A Confederation of African Football (Caf) committee punished USM Alger with a 3-0 defeat in the first leg, and a different board then dismissed an appeal on Friday.

Neither decision was explained in detail, and USM Alger could face further sanctions from the continent’s governing body.

Algeria’s football federation (Faf) is expected to launch an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with its case centred on the argument that Berkane’s kit breaches Fifa’s equipment regulations.

The world governing body states that no item of kit which “includes political statements or images” may be worn.

USM Alger, who are the holders of the Confederation Cup, travelled to north-east Morocco for the return leg but did not emerge from their dressing room for kick-off.

Caf has not yet commented on the latest incident, but Berkane are expected to progress to the final where Egyptian giants Zamalek await.

Berkane have used the same jersey throughout this season’s competition – as well as a similar design in previous continental campaigns.

The club won the Confederation Cup, which was the second-tier continental competition before the introduction of the Africa Football League, in 2020 and 2022.

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