The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has launched an investigation after Nelson Mandela’s grandson made remarks at the Opening Ceremony to “liberate” the contentious Western Sahara territory, inflaming what was already a very tense atmosphere at the African Nations Championship in Algeria.
At the CHAN Opening Ceremony at the stadium named for his grandpa in Constantine, Nelson Mandela upset Morocco, whose participation was previously questioned and controversial. He addressed the fans before Algeria’s 1-0 victory over Libya gave the hosts the tournament’s first victory. “Let us strive to free Western Sahara from oppression,” he said.
🇿🇦 Mandla Mandela (grandson of Nelson Mandela): “Let us not forget the last colony of Africa: Western Sahara. Let us fight to free Western Sahara from oppression. Let us also remember Mothiba said our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestine .. Free, Free Palestine” pic.twitter.com/JcKmtjZC9p
— Algeria FC 🇩🇿⚽️ (@Algeria_FC) January 13, 2023
“Remember Western Sahara, the last African colony.” Although Algeria supports the Polisario movement, which is pushing for a vote on the region’s independence, Morocco views Western Sahara as a part of its sovereign territory.
The Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) referred to Mandela’s remarks as “provocative,” and CAF declared that it will “examine and look into the political words and events at the TotalEnergies CHAN Algeria 2022 opening ceremony.” At the time, CAF stated its stance as being “neutral on problems of a political character.”
The FRMF has sent a letter to Patrice Motsepe, the president of CAF, and Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA. These words, according to FRMF President Fouzi Lekjaa, “are without a doubt proof of an extremely significant, plainly intentional and utterly unacceptable intrusion of politics in the organization and hosting of the CHAN Algeria 2022.”
The reigning champions, Morocco, have withdrawn from the competition after Algeria denied their request for a direct flight into the nation. Morocco and Algeria no longer maintain official relations as of 2021. The Moroccan team did travel to Rabat’s airport, but last-minute talks eventually fell short of producing a resolution.
As they had been in Rabat for the Club World Cup draw, Infantino and Motsepe were also left stranded at the airport. Motsepe declared, “We can’t continue to be in this predicament where we have these issues. “We need to examine our duties and laws, and it’s crucial [for] football in Africa that people stop thinking of us as a nation with regulations we constantly break.”
Everyone must abide by our standards and demonstrate to Africa and the rest of the world that we are serious about making African football one of the finest. We must be professional and ethical. Lekjaa stated in his letter that “These statements, which are intended to be violent and whose highly political nature is irresponsible,
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I have no connection whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, with a sporting event like the CHAN Algeria 2022 or, more generally, with football, (ii) were made by their author with premeditation as part of a staged play that was obviously orchestrated in advance, and (iii) target directly and exclusively the Kingdom of Morocco.”