by TINTSWALO BALOYI
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – AT face value, the Moroccan football federation’s snub of South African club, Kaizer Chiefs, is a measure against the raging coronavirus (COVID-19).
In reality, the stance by the host nation as is the latest in a series of diplomatic tiffs between the two rival countries.
Relations between the nations (Morocco and South Africa) occupying the northernmost and southernmost tips of the continent are strained.
They are tangled in all fields, mostly at political level, but have filtered down to sport, with the world’s most beautiful game, football, the main victim.
Successive South African governments and Moroccan monarchs have failed to ease the diplomatic spat characterising relations between the two bullies.
Morocco and South Africa’s rivalry stems from the continued occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco, since 1970.
Continental powerhouse South Africa, the self-styled beacon of democracy in Africa yet with a soiled human rights record, has been one of the most vocal critics of Morocco’s stance.
Such has been the animosity that all sectors, including the media, have been sucked into the bilateral war that heightened during South Africa’s just-ended chairmanship of the African Union (AU).
Moroccan media have singled out South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, and his predecessors, for alleged bias on the North African country’s occupation Western Sahara.
South Africa’s foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, is the latest official to receive the media’s backlash on Mzanzi’s stance against Morocco’s occupation of the disputed territory.
So severe is the spat between the two countries that it has degenerated the world’s most beautiful game into an ugly turn of events.
Both are highly ambitious countries and while Africa is a nonentity in global football, they both have bid for the World Cup.
In that regard, South Africa emerged the winner and hosted the historic 2010 edition that Morocco also bid for.
South Africa lost the bidding of the 2006 tournament to Germany, where Morocco’s bid performed embarrassingly.
Morocco and South Africa have never voted for each other’s bid to host the jamboree.
Qatar will host the 2022 edition.
Canada, Mexico and the United States, will host the 2026 World Cup.
Morocco’s bid was rejected.
So, with coincidence, Chiefs are in the same Confederations of African Football (CAF) Champions League alongside Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca.
They are in Group C, alongside Horoya (Guinea) and Petro Atletico (Angola).
Wydad were supposed to host Chiefs on Saturday but the game is hanging in the balance.
The Royal Moroccan Football Federation (RMFF), in a letter to CAF, stated the match could not proceed “due to due to health and safety related to the recent developments of COVID-19.”
Chiefs, appearing in the group stages of Africa’s premier club competition, have been left in a limbo after the denial of visas to their travelling contingent.
“With just under 12 hours before the squad is due to depart for Morocco, members of the traveling party have not been issued with visas to enter the
North African country despite applications being submitted timeously” the club stated ahead of the match.
Indications are that the fixture will be played a neutral venue.
Tebogo Motlanthe, the newly-appointed South African Football Association Chief Executive Officer, told local media the organisation was resolving the deadlock.
“We are aware of the issue. The association is working on it‚” Motlanthe said.
– CAJ News