The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has opened an investigation into political comments made by Nelson Mandela’s grandson at the opening ceremony of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Algeria.
Caf stated in a statement that it will “evaluate compliance” with both its own and Fifa’s guidelines.
The Moroccan Football Federation (FMRF) issued Caf a protest letter in response to Zwelivelile Mandela’s remarks during the opening ceremony of the CHAN on Friday, January 13. Mandela was a guest of the local organizing committee.
Algeria defeated Libya 1-0 in the tournament’s opening encounter, which was held at the newly constructed Nelson Mandela Stadium in Algiers.
In a portion of his address, Mr. Mandela stated, “The final African colony, Western Sahara. Let us struggle to end the persecution in Western Sahara.”
In a letter of protest seen by the BBC, the FMRF asserts that the Western Sahara statement had nothing to do with the tournament or football in general and was directed solely against the Kingdom of Morocco.
- Profile: Western Sahara
The sparsely populated Western Sahara is located on the northwest coast of Africa. It was a former Spanish colony that Morocco acquired in 1975.
Since then, it has been the subject of a protracted territorial dispute between Morocco and its indigenous Saharawi population, with Algeria supporting the Saharawi’s independence claim.
Algeria and Morocco severed diplomatic ties in August 2021 as a result of deteriorating relations. The fractious nature of this relationship has now spilled over into the CHAN, with Morocco deciding not to defend their title after the host nation refused to allow the Atlas Lions to fly directly from Rabat to Constantine on a Royal Air Maroc plane.
In addition to his remarks regarding Western Sahara, Mr. Mandela led the crowd of 40,000 in cries of “free Palestine.”
“These political statements are not those of Caf and do not reflect the thoughts or beliefs of Caf as a politically neutral organization,” stated the governing body of African football as it launched its probe.