USM Alger v RS Berkane: CAS panel convenes over controversial shirt row in CAF Confederation Cup

USM Alger v RS Berkane: CAS panel convenes over controversial shirt row in CAF Confederation Cup

Festus Chuma 05:42 - 03.05.2024

Algerian side USM Alger and FAF have appealed to Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)over RS Berkane's shirt featuring disputed map.

USM Alger and the Algerian Football Federation (FAF) are now pinning their hopes on a legal battle at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after the heated controversy surrounding RS Berkane's football shirt escalated.

The shirt, bearing an extended map of Morocco that includes the disputed territory of Western Sahara, has been the center of a significant dispute affecting the outcome of the CAF Confederation Cup semi-finals.

The tension has led to both legs of the semi-final between USM Alger and RS Berkane being canceled with Berkane insisting on wearing the contentious kit. 

This decision came despite Algerian customs officials seizing Berkane's kit upon their arrival last month due to the political implications of the map. The Moroccan side refused to play without their official jerseys, leading to a no-show that resulted in a default 3-0 victory awarded to Berkane by a CAF panel.

The situation took another turn when Berkane were slated to progress to the final with a 6-0 aggregate without a ball being kicked in the semi-finals. 

The scenario has sparked further appeals from USM Alger and FAF to CAS seeking not just a resolution to the semi-final dispute but also a reevaluation of the permission previously granted by CAF to Berkane to wear the disputed shirts.

In their appeal, USM Alger and FAF have asked CAS to annul the decision that allowed Berkane to wear the controversial shirts, asserting that the kit "contravenes the laws of the game, CAF regulations, and FIFA rules," which forbid any political statements on sports equipment.

CAS has responded by beginning the process of forming an arbitral panel.

 "An arbitral panel is being appointed. Once constituted, the arbitral panel will issue instructions for the next phase of the proceedings, including the holding of a hearing," stated a release on the CAS website. It also noted that "the parties are currently exchanging written submissions," but no specific timeline has been set for when the case will be heard.

This legal battle comes against a backdrop of long-standing tensions between Algeria and Morocco, primarily due to the unresolved status of Western Sahara. The territory was annexed by Morocco in 1975, leading to decades of conflict and strained diplomatic relations, including the closure of the nearly 2,000 km border between the two countries.

The final of the Confederation Cup is fast approaching, scheduled over two legs on 12 and 19 May with Egyptian giants Zamalek awaiting the outcome of the CAS proceedings.

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