Moroccan team benefit from CAF ruling after shirts confiscated. RSBFOOTBALL-X

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has awarded Morocco's RS Berkane victory over Algeria's USM Alger in the first leg of their CAF Cup semi-final, which was abandoned on Sunday following a controversy over the visiting team's shirts.

The match, scheduled for Sunday evening, was abandoned after the Algerian authorities confiscated the Moroccan team's shirts, which featured a map of the country including the disputed territory of Western Sahara, a hotly contested issue between Rabat and Algiers, the capitals of the two North African countries.

Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, is largely controlled by Morocco but claimed by the Sahrawi independence movement, which is backed by Algeria.

Algeria's foreign minister, Ramtane Lamamra, announced that relations with Morocco would be severed in August 2021.

As a result, CAF, based in Cairo, Egypt, decided to "penalise USM Alger (USMA) with a 0-3 result against RS Berkane", according to a letter sent to the Algerian association.

Meanwhile, the Moroccan Football Federation confirmed in a statement that it had been informed of CAF's decision, while the return leg between the two teams is still scheduled to take place on 28 April at 20:00 local time at the Berkane Municipal Stadium in the Oriental administrative region of north-eastern Morocco.

According to Algerian media, customs officials confiscated Berkane's shirts on arrival in Algeria because they featured a map of Morocco, including Western Sahara.

The controversy began on Friday with the arrival in the Algerian capital of the Moroccan team RS Berkane, who were due to play USMA in the semi-finals of the CAF Confederation Cup.

On Saturday, the eve of the match, CAF pointed out that RS Berkane had been wearing the same shirts since the start of the tournament. Hours before the game, it rejected an appeal by the Algerian federation, according to a statement seen by AFP.

Algerian federation president Wafi Sadi said on Sunday that the Moroccan team had been offered "quality shirts" without the Moroccan emblem, but this was rejected by USM Algeria's sporting director Toufik Korichi, who told an Algerian radio station that the match would not take place because Berkane refused to play in shirts other than those confiscated in Algiers.

At their meeting on 24 April, the Interclubs Competitions Organisation Committee and the Club Licensing System Management Committee decided to penalise USMA with a 3-0 forfeit for match No. 129 USMA (Algeria) vs. RS Berkane (Morocco) of the TotalEnergies CAF Confederation Cup 2023/2024 and referred the case to the Disciplinary Committee for possible additional sanctions, according to the correspondence sent.

Although USMA were the only team on the pitch, the committee considered that RSB had failed to appear due to the actions of the Algerians and the impossibility of playing with their approved jerseys.

Following CAF's decision in favour of the Moroccan team, the president of the Algerian federation announced that he would support the USMA in its appeal against the sanction and that he intended to take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).