Caitlin Dearing Scott
February 9, 2018
The FIFA headline following Morocco’s victory in the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) said it best – “Morocco on a roll after local triumph.” That is certainly the case for the Atlas Lions, whose 4-0 win over Nigeria capped off an exciting few months for the national team. As the FIFA article noted, “Truly, these are heady times for Moroccan football.”
It all started last year when the Moroccan team qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, for the first time in 20 years, with a win over the Ivory Coast. In its historic World Cup qualification, Morocco also managed to net the maximum number of points and not concede any goals – further proof that it has earned its return to the world stage.
Last Sunday’s CHAN win was no less historic, as Morocco became the first host national to win the competition. The victory, the first for Morocco since 1976, augurs well for Morocco’s future chances – though the World Cup qualifying team included Moroccans playing abroad, the African Nations Championships is limited to players representing Africa clubs, highlighting the depth of the Moroccan squad.
Off the field, Morocco has high hopes for its 2026 World Cup bid, after successfully hosting the 2013 and 2014 FIFA Club World Cups and the 2018 CHAN. At the official launch of its campaign, bid chairman Moulay Hafid Elalamy summarized what makes the Morocco bid so special, noting, “Morocco 2026 will showcase the best of football, at the heart of the world. We promise to stage a tournament overflowing with real passion and to celebrate the values of unity and peace.”
Moroccan football fans will have to wait until June to see what the next chapter holds – and whether the country’s sporting success will be short-lived or here to stay.
In the meantime, Moroccan fans can cheer on Samir Azzimani, Morocco’s “Couscous Rocket,” who will be competing in cross-country skiing at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games. Known for his unique training methods – which include roller skiing and skiing in the desert sand – Azzimani hopes to inspire future generations of Moroccan athletes by proving, “that it is possible in Morocco, that you don’t need snow to cross-country ski.”