A Moroccan Club Jersey Takes Market By Storm After Diplomatic Dispute

A Moroccan club jersey takes market by storm after diplomatic dispute

A Moroccan football club jersey carrying a national map including disputed Western Sahara has become a hot commodity in Morocco after a diplomatic dispute with Algeria

Berkane, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 29th Apr, 2024) A Moroccan football club jersey carrying a national map including disputed Western Sahara has become a hot commodity in Morocco after a diplomatic dispute with Algeria.

Retailers said Renaissance Berkane jerseys have been flying off the shelves after a Confederation of African Football (CAP) cup match against Algerian club USM Alger was cancelled earlier this month over the jerseys.

"We are overwhelmed by the influx of messages and requests," Brahim Rabii, representative of the official Berkane jersey distributor, told AFP.

Algeria broke off diplomatic relations with Morocco in 2021, partly over the issue of Western Sahara.

The former Spanish colony is largely controlled by Morocco but claimed by the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, which seeks the territory's independence.

When Renaissance landed in Algiers earlier this month to take on USM Alger in the first leg of the CAF cup semi-finals, Algerian customs confiscated its jerseys because they feature the map.

The Moroccan club refused to take the field without the jerseys and so the match was cancelled.

On Sunday night, the return game at Berkane -- a province bordering Algeria -- was also cancelled after USM Alger withdrew, also over the jerseys, giving the Moroccan side direct qualification for the Confederation Cup finals against Egyptian giants Zamalek next month.

"Moroccans show an overwhelming passion for the Berkane team jerseys," said Rabii.

"Their fervour does not tolerate any attack on the homeland or national territory," he added, referring to Western Sahara, which the UN considers as a "non-autonomous territory".

The demand has "significantly increased in all (Moroccan) cities and even abroad," said Soufiane Al Korchi, another representative of the official jersey distributor.

- 'Political message' -

After Algerian customs confiscated the Moroccan jerseys in Algiers on April 19, Algerian Football Federation (FAF) president Walid Sadi said the Moroccan team would be given "high-quality jerseys" instead -- ones without the map.

RS Berkane turned down the offer, leading to the cancellation of the first game.

This had "an unexpected effect", said Toufiq Jouit, a Renaissance supporter that AFP interviewed at a club store in Berkane, where the jerseys are sold for 200 Dirhams (about $19.70).

"The incident pushed the jersey to the forefront of the international scene, arousing high interest among football fans," Jouit added.

According to Al Korchi, the "map has been part of the official design for three years".

"It's not a novelty, but rather an identity element that has accompanied the club for several years," said the retailor.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) awarded Berkane a 3-0 victory for both legs of the semi-final.

The Algerian football federation then lodged an appeal against CAF's decision with international sport's top court, the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.

It argued that the Cairo-based body had made a mistake by "validating the request of the Moroccan club, RS Berkane, to wear a shirt with a political message".

RS Berkane coach Mouine Chaabani regretted the cancellation of the two games.

"It's been almost 20 days since we played any matches," he said Sunday.

"We will compensate with training although nothing replaces competition."