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CAF may be forced to move Afcon spectacle to another country

SA U17 team stranded as Morocco stalls visas

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
Thabang Mahlangu of South Africa and Miguel Chaiwa of Zambia during the 2020 COSAFA U17 Youth Championship Final football match between Zambia and South Africa at Gelvandale Stadium, Port Elizabeth on 29 November 2020.
Thabang Mahlangu of South Africa and Miguel Chaiwa of Zambia during the 2020 COSAFA U17 Youth Championship Final football match between Zambia and South Africa at Gelvandale Stadium, Port Elizabeth on 29 November 2020.
Image: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

The SA national under-17 squad are the latest local team to be affected by stringent travel protocols the Morocco government has imposed on SA and other countries in fear of Covid-19.

Amajimbos were supposed to have travelled to Morocco last Friday to participate in this year’s Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), starting this weekend.

However, the SA junior national team are still stranded on local shores as the Moroccan government is reluctant to grant them visas. The Veli Khumalo-coached side were billed to open their campaign against Mali on Monday.

Speaking to Sowetan yesterday, SA Football Association spokesperson Dominic Chimhavi confirmed Amajimbos had found it difficult to get visas, even though the association’s president, Danny Jordaan, had already travelled to the north African nation ahead of Friday’s CAF congress, where Patrice Motsepe is expected to be elected as the continental body’s president.

“The Moroccans are sending us from pillar to post. The team [Amajimbos] is still in SA. It’s not only SA  teams who are yet to receive visas. However, the president [Jordaan] has left already...he left yesterday [on Sunday]. The CEO [Tebogo Motlanthe] is leaving tomorrow [today],’’ said Chimhavi.

Chimhavi added that they think CAF may be forced to move the U-17 spectacle to another country. Various media reports on the continent have suggested some countries are still awaiting visas too, but SA’s neighbours, Zambia, reported their side had been allowed into Rabat ahead of their opener against the hosts on Sunday. The tournament kicks off on Sunday and concludes on March 31.

“We feel CAF might take the tournament to another country. Moroccan immigration laws under Covid-19 are strict. We will wait to hear from CAF,” said Chimhavi.

Chimhavi emphasised that he wasn’t aware if Motsepe had already been granted a visa to travel for the elective congress, referring all queries relating to the mining magnet’s matters to Sizwe Nzimande of the  Motsepe Foundation.

Yesterday, Motsepe attended a media conference to announce a partnership between Mamelodi Sundowns and the University of Pretoria in Tshwane. Nzimande couldn’t be reached for comment as he never answered his phone.

Last month, Morocco denied Kaizer Chiefs entry to that country for their CAF Champions League group match against Wydad, which was eventually hosted in Burkina Faso.

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