South Africa withdraws from 2020 CAF Futsal
The South African Football Association (SAFA) executive committee has taken a painful but necessary decision to withdraw from the CAF 2020 FUTSAL African Cup of Nations tournament scheduled for Laayoun in Western Sahara from January 28 to February 7.
The SAFA CEO Gay Mokoena has been mandated by the executive committee to write a letter to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) informing the continental body of South Africa’s decision to summarily withdraw from the tournament.
South Africa qualified for the continental tournament after defeating Mauritius 11-1 on aggregate and have been paired with Morocco, Libya and Equatorial Guinea in Group A while Group B consists of Egypt, Guinea, Mozambique and Angola.
But the tension between the SA government and the football controlling body is so palpable that the football controlling boy could not see their way clear out of the situation except to heed the call of the government to withdraw from the tournament.
“I think it is important that I put the matter in proper perspective,” said SAFA President Dr Danny Jordaan. “We have played countless matches against the Morocco national team in Morocco. And the battles between Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad Casablanca in CAF Champions League are legendary.
“Our youth teams have played in Morocco countless times and when the All Africa Games were staged by Morocco, it was the Minister of Sport at the time who fought for South Africa to field our sporting teams to participate in the tournament.”
It is however a known fact that South Africa supports Sahrawi or Western Sahara since the time they offered the African National Congress material support during the then outlawed organization’s fight against the apartheid regime.
But because Morocco is illegally occupying Western Sahara, the South African government does not recognize Morocco’s rule over Sahrawi and in fact, instructed SAFA to vote against Morocco when they were bidding to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
“When our team qualified for the FUTSAL,” explained Jordaan, “we implored our Ambassador to represent SAFA at the draw. It was only later that we discovered that our ambassador did not attend the function and we enquired why.
“But the government’s position is clear: “You can play Morocco anywhere in most of the recognized cities in the North African country, but certainly not an occupied territory like Laayoun. We wrote a letter to CAF notifying them about the situation and seeking advice.
“However, until late on Saturday, we had not received an directive from CAF and so, the executive committee voted on the matter and 80% of the members voted that we should show solidarity with the people of Sahrawi and instead withdraw from the tournament if it is played in Laayoun.”
History teaches us that following Spain’s evacuation, consequence of the Moroccan Green March, Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania signed the Madrid Accords on November 14, 1975, six days before Franco passed away, leading to both Morocco and Mauritania moving in to annex the territory of Western Sahara.
On 26 February 1976, Spain informed the United Nations (UN) that as of that date it had terminated its presence in Western Sahara and relinquished its responsibilities, leaving no Administering Power.
Neither Morocco nor Mauritania gained international recognition, and war ensued with the independence-seeking Polisario Front. The UN considers the Polisario Front to be the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people, and maintains that the people of Western Sahara have a right to “self-determination and independence”.
The creation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic was proclaimed on February 27, 1976, as the Polisario declared the need for a new entity to fill what they considered a political void left by the departing Spanish colonizers.
While the claimed capital is the former Western Sahara capital El-Aaiún (which is in Moroccan-controlled territory), the proclamation was made in the government-in-exile’s provisional capital, Bir Lehlou, which remained in Polisario-held territory under the 1991.
A new 1999 Constitution of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic took a form similar to the parliamentary constitutions of many European states, but with some paragraphs suspended until the achievement of “full independence”.
Although the tournament is said to be taking place in Morocco, it is reality taking place in Sahrawi occupied territory and SAFA has supported the stance taken by its government by displaying their solidarity with Sahrawi in withdrawing from the tournament to increase pressure on Morocco to grant Western Sahara its independence.