What RS Berkane’s ordeal in Algiers says about politicizing sports in Algeria

As was expected RS Berkane could not play an African Confederation Cup game against USM Alger because Algerian customs refused to hand them their jerseys bearing a Moroccan full map including the Sahara provinces.

CAF informed twice the Algerian football federation FAF that RS Berkane should receive their jerseys in order to play the game or else risk sanctions.

RS Berkane has previously sent to CAF its jerseys which were approved. The team, twice a title holder of the African Confederation Cup, has been using the same jersey in its national and international games.
Upon their arrival at Algiers airport, RS Berkane had to stay for ten hours enduring harassment, intimidation and insults by Algerian officials who refused to hand them back their luggage including jerseys. All these was relayed to the whole world on social media videos.

FAF said it has no authority over customs and mocked itself by buying jerseys for Berkane team without the Moroccan map.

Due to their incapacity to play without their official jerseys, RS Berkane were spared the injurious chants by some indoctrinated USM fans who compared Moroccans to monkeys and insulted the head of the Moroccan football federation in full sight of CAF monitors.

The incident highlights the extent of sabotage to which the military-run Algerian regime- imbued with hostility to anything Moroccan- is willing to subject its own sports teams.

Sabotage in this case means ruining Algerian football, which should brace for heavy CAF sanctions that could go as far as banning its national team from partaking in the African Cup of Nations in 2025.
After failing to divide Morocco in two on the ground, Algeria is now seeking to ban Morocco’s full map including the Sahara, a reality which it refuses to accept.

Other Algerian teams, political class and elites voiced solidarity with USM Alger, almost all of them said the customs were right in detaining the jerseys as a “sovereignty” issue. The co-opted sports and political elites once again show that Algeria is the real party to the Sahara conflict.

The harassment of RS Berkane, however, served the Algerian regime in distracting attention from an important event that took place over the weekend: The self-proclamation of the independence of the Kabyle state in front of the UN headquarters.