from MTHOKOZISI DUBE in Casablanca, Morocco
CASABLANCA – MOROCCO is undeterred by the diplomatic controversy leading up to its hosting the Futsal Africa Cup of Nations next Tuesday.
The continent’s top indoor football nations will converge in the North African country for the tournament that will see three teams book their participation at the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) Futsal World Cup in Lithuania in September-October.
Preparations for the tournament in Morocco have been dominated by South Africa pulling out, in what seemingly is a diplomatic fallout between the two countries.
Mauritius has replaced South Africa.
Morocco and South African relations are marred by tensions over the former’s occupation of Western Sahara.
The strains have spilled over to the sporting field with the two countries infamous for opposing their respective bids to host the FIFA World Cup, first played in 1989.
Ahead of the Futsal Africa Cup of Nations, Morocco seemed upbeat of a successful tournament.
“We are delighted as a country to be hosting this event,” the Morocco Royal Football Federation stated.
“We believe because of our readiness and existing facilities CAF (Confederation of African Football) has seen it fit for us to once again to play host to one of their prestigious tournaments where the top three coming from this tournament will head to the World Cup in Lithuania later this year.”
The hosts are the defending champions and will face off with Libya, Equatorial Guinea and debutantes Mauritius in Group A.
Group B pits record three-time champions Egypt, Guinea, Angola and Mozambique.
The top two teams from each group will advance to the semi-finals. Finalists and third-place winners qualify for Lithuania to join 21 other sides.
Futsal is a variant of association football played on a hard court, smaller than a football pitch, and mainly indoors.
Egypt has won the African tournament three times.
– CAJ News