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Pressured by its government, South Africa pulls out of a sports tournament to be held in Laayoune

Pressured by the Cyril Ramaphosa government, South Africa’s Football Association (Safa) decided to pull out of the scheduled 2020 Africa Futsal Cup of Nations (Afcon), which will be hosted in Laayoune.

South Africa's president Cyril Ramaphosa./ DR
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South Africa has decided to boycott the 2020 Africa Futsal Cup of Nations (Afcon), to be held from January 28 to February 7 in Laayoune, South African newspaper Daily Sun wrote on Tuesday. In a press briefing, the South Africa Football Association (Safa) will officially announce, this week, its decision and explain the reasons behind it.

Safa president Danny Jordaan, however, confirmed that the sports body «have been warned» by the government not to participate in the tournament «because of the disputed venue», referring to the city of Laayoune. Moreover, he added that taking part to the competition «poses a big risk» to the South African players.

«We have to withdraw from the Futsal Afcon because of the issues with Morocco and the South Africa Republic», said Jordaan who has been heading Safa for many years.

«Morocco insists on taking the tournament there (Laayoune), and we advised them through a letter not to, but they won’t listen. Now our government’s position is that Laayoune is a disputed area and occupied territory», he added.

A letter to CAF

Meanwhile, Jordaan explained that «despite the political tension between the two countries, South Africa and Morocco, the Safa teams have played in Morocco before». «Remember our Under 20 men's team?» he asked, recalling that South African teams have played before in Rabat, Marrakech, Casablanca and Tangier.

«On this one, they are not playing inside the boundaries of Morocco, or as we understand it, they are playing it in Laayoune, an Arab Republic territory. And therefore it is disputed area», he argued.

Jordaan reported that the body he presides has sent a letter to the Confederation of African Football (CAF), adding that «it is sad that the players were looking forward to the Cup of Nations but politics have to blow their dreams away».

Indeed, according to the same newspaper, Safa CEO Gay Mokoena wrote a letter to CAF to alert them of South Africa’s withdrawal.

«Accordingly, we are proceeding to inform CAF that, unfortunately, due to the policies of our country, the Republic of SA, in respect of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic and the Morocco dispute over Western Sahara, we withdraw our Football national team», read the letter.

For the record, it was at the end of a meeting, held on September 28, 2018 in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, that the executive office of the African Football Confederation granted Morocco the hosting rights of the 2021 of the Cup Africa Nations (CAN) under 17 (U 17) and the futsal CAN in 2020.

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