Morocco team await Algerian green light to fly in for CHAN

Morocco's football team was waiting at Rabat airport Friday for a green light to take off for Algeria, the kingdom's arch-rival which is hosting the African Nations Championship (CHAN).

Morocco had announced a decision late Thursday to take part in the tournament despite earlier insisting they would boycott it due to the closure of Algerian airspace to Moroccan planes.

Algeria closed its airspace to all Moroccan flights in September 2021, the month after it cut off diplomatic ties with its rival, accusing it of "hostile acts".

"We're at the airport and we are still waiting for official authorisation to head to Algeria in order to take part in the CHAN," Moroccan under-23s coach Issam Charai told journalists.

The team and staff had been in the lounge of Rabat-Sale airport since the early morning, an AFP photographer said.

A Royal Air Maroc aeroplane was waiting on the tarmac.

Morocco's FRMF football federation had said Thursday that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) had informed it last month that Algeria had issued "an authorisation in principle" for the flight.

Just 24 hours before the start of the tournament, the FRMF said the authorisation had not been confirmed, but the foreign ministry later Thursday said the team would travel to Morocco to take part.

Algeria has not confirmed whether or not it had given a green light.

The CHAN host is locked in a long-running rivalry fuelled by the Western Sahara dispute and relations with Israel.

As the Moroccan team waited in Rabat, Gianni Infantino and Patrice Motsepe, heads of world governing body FIFA and the Confederation of African Football respectively, arrived from Algeria, where they had attended the opening of a new stadium.

They attended the draw for the FIFA Club World Cup, set to start in Morocco on February 1.

Morocco, which made history last month by becoming the first African or Arab team ever to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup, have won the past two African Nations Championships.

agr/ezz/bm/ea/lp