Nelson Mandela's grandson Mandla has sparked a diplomatic row after a controversial speech at the Opening Ceremony of the African Nations Championship in Algeria ©YouTube

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) have opened an investigation after Nelson Mandela's grandson inflamed what was already a highly volatile situation at the African Nations Championship in Algeria, over comments at the Opening Ceremony to "free" the disputed region of Western Sahara.

Mandla Mandela has outraged Morocco, whose participation was already the subject of doubt and controversy, at the Opening Ceremony of CHAN at a stadium named after his grandfather in Constantine.

"Let us fight to free Western Sahara from oppression," he told the crowd before hosts Algeria won the opening match of the tournament with a 1-0 victory over Libya.

"Don’t forget the last colony of Africa, Western Sahara."

Morocco considers the Western Sahara to be a part of its kingdom, but Algeria backs the Polisario movement, who are seeking an independence referendum over the region.

The Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) called Mandela's statement "provocative", and CAF announced that it "will investigate and look into the political statements and events at the opening ceremony of the TotalEnergies CHAN Algeria 2022".

At the time, CAF claimed that their position is "to be neutral on matters of a political nature".

The FRMF have fired off a letter addressed to Gianni Infantino and Patrice Motsepe, the Presidents of FIFA and CAF, respectively.

FRMF President Fouzi Lekjaa wrote that "these statements are unquestionably evidence of an extremely serious, obviously premeditated and totally unacceptable interference of politics in the organization and hosting of the CHAN Algeria 2022…"

Morocco, the defending champions, have boycotted the tournament after Algeria refused their request for a direct flight into the country.

Since 2021, Morocco and Algeria no longer have diplomatic ties.

The Moroccan team did go to the airport in Rabat, but last-minute negotiations ultimately failed to bring a solution.

Infantino and Motsepe were also left grounded at the airport as they had been attending the draw for the Club World Cup in Rabat.

Defending champions Morocco are boycotting the African Nations Championship in Algeria after failing to secure permission to fly directly into the country ©Getty Images
Defending champions Morocco are boycotting the African Nations Championship in Algeria after failing to secure permission to fly directly into the country ©Getty Images

"We can’t have this situation where we have these problems," said Motsepe.

"We’ve got to look at our roles, look at our laws and it’s key [for] football in Africa people stop seeing us as having some rules we don't adhere to, and we change them all the time.

"We have to be professional; we’ve got to be ethical.

"Everybody must comply with our rules and say to Africa and the world that we are serious about African football being amongst the best."

In his letter Lekjaa wrote, "These statements, which are intended to be violent and whose highly political nature is irresponsible, (i) have no connection whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, with a sport competition such as the CHAN Algeria 2022 nor, more generally, with football, (ii) were made by their author with premeditation as part of a staged play that was obviously orchestrated in advance, and (iii) target directly and exclusively the Kingdom of Morocco."