Holders Morocco have withdrawn from the African Nations Championship in Algeria, the neighbour it has been in dispute with for several years  ©Getty Images

Morocco have pulled out of the African Nations Championship a day before the tournament is due to begin, blaming hosts Algeria for rejecting a request for a direct flight.

The Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) had demanded a direct Royal Air Maroc flight be set up from Rabat to Constantine, where they were due to play group matches against Ghana, Madagascar and Sudan.

It claimed that its request had been "accepted in principle" by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on December 22.

FIFA World Cup semi-finalists Morocco played friendlies against Ethiopia last Friday (January 6) and on Tuesday (January 10), which the FRMF claimed represented a continuation of its preparations for the Championship.

However, it has announced the country's withdrawal from the tournament as it "did not reach the final authorisation".

Relations between Morocco and its neighbour Algeria are tense, with diplomatic ties severed in 2021 and all direct flights between the two countries suspended.

The border between Algeria and Morocco has been closed since 1994, costing both an estimated two per cent of their annual growth rate.

Tensions are high between Algeria and Morocco, with land borders between the two countries closed for nearly 30 years ©Getty Images
Tensions are high between Algeria and Morocco, with land borders between the two countries closed for nearly 30 years ©Getty Images

A recent escalation in the tensions between both countries is connected to the disputed status of Western Sahara, abandoned by Spain in 1975.

Algeria did not assert any territorial claims of its own, but supported a move for the area's independence and opposed its absorption into any of its neighbours.

The President of the tournament's Organising Committee Rachid Oukali had claimed "we are only obliged to provide transport for the participating teams within the national territory", according to Atalayar.

Tensions between Algeria and Morocco also impacted last year's Mediterranean Games in Oran, where nine journalists were refused entry by Algerian police at the airport and did not allow them to return home.

Only players who represent domestic club sides are eligible to compete in the African Nations Championship, which was first played in 2009 and is not to be confused with the Africa Cup of Nations.

Morocco had won the last two editions in 2018 and 2020, and were due to face Sudan in their opening match on Sunday (January 15).

The African Nations Championship is take place from tomorrow until February 4.