The Confederation of African Football (CAF) said on Sunday it would investigate comments made at the African Nations Championship in Algeria about the “liberation” of the disputed Western Sahara, which has sparked outrage in Morocco.
Neighboring Morocco and Algeria are locked in a bitter rivalry over Western Sahara, where Algiers-backed Polisario movement seeks an independence referendum.
Rabat views Western Sahara as an integral part of the kingdom, a highly sensitive issue of security and national pride.
A speech by the grandson of the late South African leader Nelson Mandela sparked outrage in Morocco on Friday at the opening ceremony of the CHAN football tournament in Algeria.
“Let us fight to free Western Sahara from oppression,” Mandela told the crowd at Constantine Stadium, named after his grandfather, South Africa’s first democratically elected president.
“Don’t forget Western Sahara, Africa’s last colony,” he added.
The Moroccan Football Federation called the statement “provocative”.
On Sunday, CAF said it “will investigate and investigate political statements and events at the opening ceremony of TotalEnergies CHAN Algeria 2022”.
CAF emphasized its stance to be “neutral on issues of a political nature”.
Morocco decided on Friday not to send its under-23 team to the CHAN tournament after Algeria refused to authorize direct flights from Rabat.
Algeria severed diplomatic relations with Morocco in August 2021 and closed its airspace to all Moroccan flights the following month.
CHAN organizers said the team could have taken an indirect flight.
The Moroccan Atlas Lions under-23 team has won the last two CHAN Championships.