FIFA Council member Amaju Pinnick has criticised Algeria's treatment of Morocco which has caused a diplomatic incident at the African Nations Championship ©Getty Images

FIFA Council Member Amaju Pinnick has condemned "political remarks and xenophobic chants" at the Opening Ceremony of the 2023 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Algeria as "disturbing."

A dispute between the host nation and FIFA World Cup Semi finalists and CHAN defending champions Morocco saw them denied entry to Algeria for this year's tournament.

"As a member of the world football family and stakeholder in African football, I am concerned that Morocco, the defending champion of the African Nations Championship, was hindered from participating in the 2023 edition of the tournament in Algeria," Pinnick, former President of the Nigeria Football Federation, said.

Although their flag was displayed at the Opening Ceremony, Morocco decided not to defend their title after the Algerians refused to allow the team to fly directly from Rabat to their tournament base in Constantine.

The Algerian authorities had refused Morocco permission to fly from Rabat to Constantine for the African Nations Championship ©Getty Images
The Algerian authorities had refused Morocco permission to fly from Rabat to Constantine for the African Nations Championship ©Getty Images

The refusal is said to have been announced only 24 hours before the tournament was set to open last Friday (January 13) and Pinnick has described the actions of the Algerians as falling  “short of expectations."

The Opening Ceremony. held in a stadium named after Nelson Mandela, caused further controversy when Mandela’s grandson Mandla made a speech was widely interpreted as a criticism of Morocco.

Mandela thanked his Algerian hosts for naming the stadium after his grandfather.

"In his honour let us not forget the last colony of Africa, Western Sahara," he told the crowd.

"Let us fight to free Western Sahara from oppression.

"Let us remember that Mandiba said our freedom is not complete without the freedom of Palestine."

Pinnick warned that FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) are to investigate the affair.

"I believe that the leadership of CAF and FIFA would apply necessary measures as captured in the relevant articles in the FIFA Statutes to serve as deterrence against future occurrence and to preserve the beautiful game." Pinnick said.

"While not interfering in any political issues that may exist between both countries, we must be reminded that football promotes world unity and peace and all member countries of FIFA and indeed nations which bid to host events should accordingly be willing and ready to act with the same understanding."

Ghana, Madagascar and Sudan, the teams which were to have met Morocco in CHAN Group C, have all been awarded three points and three goals by default.

Although Moroccan athletes took part in the 2022 Mediterranean Games held in the Algerian city of Oran, some journalists from the country were refused entry to cover the Games.