With the 2020 FIFA Futsal World Cup beginning in September, qualifying for the tournament has begun in earnest in both Europe and Africa. While European qualification is a two and a half month process to determine which six countries will join the host nation Lithuania, the Africa Futsal Cup of Nations — played between Jan. 28 and Feb. 7 — determines which three African countries qualify.
Although Thursday marked only the third day of the competition, we’ve already had some wild moments both on and off the futsal court in the city of Laayoune, which is located in the disputed territory of Western Sahara but administered by Morocco (more on that later).
Morocco was the last nation to win the AFCON Futsal title back in 2016, and they opened play on Tuesday with a 3-0 victory over Libya. Here’s a bit of tiki taka from the host nation.
Tik taka do Marrocos na CAN Futsal 2020 #CANFutsal2020 #FutsalWC pic.twitter.com/nBPHJAadkF— Futsal Profissional Oficial (@FSprofissional) January 29, 2020
But the best goal so far — and it could well stand as the goal of the tournament — was scored by Angola yesterday during a 7-4 victory over Mozambique. It’s a rainbow flick —> volley combination.
— CAF - PT (@CAF_Online_PT) January 30, 2020
We’ve also seen some nice skills out there, including this ingenious way to escape pressure…
#TotalAFCONFutsal2020 pic.twitter.com/wF9bydG4yD— CAF (@CAF_Online) January 30, 2020
And this ingenious way to finish a chance…
Goals are being scored anyway possible at the #TotalAFCONFutsal2020 pic.twitter.com/6XWGxOJTSy— CAF (@CAF_Online) January 28, 2020
But it wouldn’t be an international tournament without some geopolitical tension. Again, Morocco decided to host the tournament in the city of Laayoune, which is a disputed territory that Morocco laid claim to following Spain’s withdrawal of colonial administration in 1975. However, the people of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic believe that Morocco is occupying the land illegally and that it should be their own.
Accordingly, some see the decision to host the tournament in Laayoune as a Moroccan attempt to legitimize its claim over the territory.
Because of the decision to host the tournament in Laayoune, South Africa refused to participate despite having qualified. Because of South Africa’s withdrawal, Mauritius was chosen as a replacement. However, after losing its opening match 4-2 to Equatorial Guinea, Mauritius announced that it would follow South Africa’s lead and withdraw from the tournament.
It’s now being reported that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) is refusing to pay Mauritius’ hotel bills or travel costs, while the Mauritius Football Association (MFA) says that it does not have the funds to settle the bills.
The current president of CAF is Malagasy football administrator Ahmad Ahmad, but the second vice-president of CAF is Fouzi Lekjaa, who is also the president of the Morocco Football Association.