Why RS Berkane's jerseys sparked detention drama in Algerian airport

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Why RS Berkane's jerseys sparked detention drama in Algerian airport

Festus Chuma 14:32 - 20.04.2024

RS Berkane were detained at Algiers airport ahead of their Confederation Cup semi-final against USM Alger.

RS Berkane's arrival at Algiers airport turned contentious as Algerian authorities detained the team over their jerseys, marking another escalation in the fraught relations between Algeria and Morocco.

The incident occurred on Friday morning when the Moroccan football team landed for their crucial CAF Confederation Cup semi-final against USM Alger, set for this Sunday.

Upon arrival from Oujda Angad airport on a Spanish airline—a workaround due to Algeria's ban on Moroccan flights—the team's luggage was reportedly confiscated for inspection.

The bone of contention was RS Berkane's official team jerseys, which prominently feature the map of the Kingdom of Morocco in an inclusion that did not sit well with Algerian customs officials.

Sources close to the situation reported that the authorities refused to allow the delegation to leave the airport, explicitly stating the country’s objection to the visibility of the Moroccan map on the jerseys within Algerian territory. 

The events led to the team being prevented from proceeding to their accommodations, leaving them stranded at the airport under increasing uncertainty.

The treatment of the RS Berkane team has shed light on the ongoing diplomatic tensions that have simmered since Algeria closed its airspace to all Moroccan aircraft in September 2021. 

The relationship between the two North African neighbors has been tense, with sporadic escalations affecting various aspects of bilateral engagements, including sports.

The current standoff at the airport has not only disrupted the team's preparations for the upcoming match but also raised questions about the role of sports as a bridge in diplomatic relations. 

The decision to detain the players over a jersey design highlights the deep-seated political sensitivities that often spill over into arenas meant to foster unity and camaraderie.

So far, calls for intervention by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) growing louder. 

The governing body is expected to address the matter as the fairness and spirit of the game risk being overshadowed by political disputes.

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