Morocco await CAF ruling after African Nations Championship no-show

Reigning African Nations Championship holders Morocco await an imminent ruling from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on the exact sanctions they will face after failing to turn up for the ongoing CHAN tournament in Algeria.

The tournament's organising committee announced in a press conference on Monday that they would be seeking legal advice from CAF on the appropriate consequences for the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) following the Atlas Lions' no-show for the biennial competition.

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A backdrop of diplomatic hostilities between the two nations spilled into the football sphere, with Algeria refusing to open its airspace to allow the Morocco national team to arrive on a direct flight to Algiers on Jan. 13.

The defending champions -- who had been drawn in Group C alongside Madagascar, Sudan and Ghana -- had insisted on boarding a flight with their official partners Royal Air Maroc from the country's administrative capital Rabat, and the delegation even arrived at the airport on Friday to await the green light to board.

However, permission to land on Algerian soil didn't arrive, with Algeria insisting on no direct flights from Morocco, and Morocco's team refusing to travel to the host country via an alternative route through a third country.

Sudan took to the field for their opener against the Atlas Lions on Sunday, but were awarded a 3-0 walkover after the North Africans, who have won the last two editions of the tournament, failed to appear.

CAF announced in a press conference on Monday that Group C would be played out as a three-team group, with only one team being eliminated, while indicating that they have "referred to CAF's competent judicial body the issue of Morocco's absence from [Sunday's] match in Constantine against Sudan."

CAF also confirmed that they would be submitting the case to their "Discipline Commission for a deeper examination," with Morocco potentially set to face fiscal sanctions and even a ban from future CHAN tournaments.

The ongoing spat may well have consequences for both countries' bids to host the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations, while Morocco have also been tipped as a potential destination for the 2030 World Cup.

It's been a controversy-laden start to the CHAN tournament -- the biennial competition for national teams made up of players playing in their country's domestic league -- with Nelson Mandela's grandson Zwelivelile "Mandla" Mandela delivering a speech with anti-Morocco content during the opening ceremony.

It was condemned as "malicious actions" by the FRMF, who, in a letter sent to CAF as seen by ESPN, also called upon the organisation to "assume their responsibilities in the face of flagrant transgressions which have no connection to the principles and values of football."

In the discourse, Mandela criticised Morocco's ongoing claims on the contested Western Sahara region, while some supporters inside the stadium -- named after his grandfather -- chanted anti-Moroccan slogans.

CAF announced at the weekend that they would open an investigation into the nature of the statements made during the opening ceremony, affirming that Mandela's statements "are not those of CAF and do not reflect a view or an opinion of CAF as a politically neutral organisation."