Moroccan team celebrate CHAN 2020 title
Morocco lifted the African Nations Championship in 2018 and 2020 when they defeated Mali in the final

Morocco have withdrawn from the defence of their African Nations Championship (CHAN) crown this month after being refused a direct flight by host nation Algeria.

Diplomatic ties between the north African neighbours were severed by Algeria in 2021, and with that action, all direct flights between the two countries were suspended.

The Moroccan Football Federation (FMRF) said in December they would not attend unless they could fly directly from their capital, Rabat, aboard the country’s national airline, Royal Air Maroc (RAM).

The tournament, which the Atlas Lions won in 2018 and 2020, kicks off on Friday as Algeria host Libya and is the Confederation of African Football’s (Caf) international event for players who play domestically in the leagues on the continent.

Morocco were due to begin their hunt for a third consecutive crown on Sunday against Sudan, but FMRF said in a statement: “(We) were informed on December 22 by Caf that an authorisation in principle had been obtained. The obtaining of the final authorization has unfortunately not been confirmed by Caf.

“The FRMF has communicated the details of the flight plan and coordinates in order to obtain final authorization for the RAM flight from Rabat and continued the preparation of the trip and the participation in CHAN.”

The BBC have asked CAF to confirm that sanctions are limited to a ban from CHAN 2024 – and therefore would not mean that the World Cup semi-finalists would face suspension from all Caf events, including the Africa Cup of Nations taking place in Ivory Coast next year.

Morocco played two friendlies against Ethiopia at their training camp in Salé this week ahead of the flight they expected to take directly to Constantine, where they were to be based for the tournament.