As a member of the world football family and stakeholder in African football, I am concerned that Morocco, the defending champion of the African Nations Championship, CHAN, was hindered from participating in the 2023 edition of the tournament holding in Algeria.
According to the Moroccan Football Federation, it was compelled to withdraw from the tournament when the Algerian authorities failed to grant clearance to Air Maroc, the official airline of the Moroccan team, to access the Constantine Airport in Algeria, 24 hours to the kick off, after the Algerian authorities had assured the Confederation of African Football, CAF, that it would and CAF in turn had conveyed same assurance to the Moroccan Football Federation.
Even more disturbing were the political remarks at the opening ceremony and xenophobic chants by Algerian fans.
While not interfering in any political issues that may exist between both countries, we must be reminded that football promotes world unity and peace and all member countries of FIFA and indeed nations which bid to host events should accordingly be willing and ready to act with the same understanding.
As has been repeatedly admonished by FIFA and most recently by President Gianni Infantino and Secretary Fatma Samoura at the just concluded FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, we must focus on football and not drag the game into every ideological or political differences that may exist between nations.
I am therefore saddened by these occurrences at the African Nations Championship, a very important tournament in the calendar of African football for the development of home based players.
I believe that the leadership of CAF and FIFA would apply necessary measures as captured in the relevant articles in the FIFA Statutes to serve as deterrence against future occurrence and to preserve the beautiful game.
*Amaju Melvin Pinnick Member, FIFA Council and CAF Executive Committee*