From Russia to the Sahara, The Latest in Moroccan Sports News – Caitlin Dearing Scott
Caitlin Dearing Scott
December 11, 2017
The World Cup groupings are official and after a tough road to qualify for the World Cup, Morocco has an even tougher draw in the main event, being placed in Group B with Portugal and Spain, ranked 3rd and 6th respectively in the FIFA Rankings, as well as Iran, ranked 32nd. Morocco, which is ranked 40th, will face off first again Iran on June 15, in what coaches from both countries have described as a “world cup final.” Morocco’s assistant coach Mustapha Hadji told BBC Sport, “The first game will be our final. It will be a tough game because we watched Iran in qualifying and they have a very good team and a very good spirit. But if we win, we have a great opportunity to reach the second round. That’s what we are coming for.”
The Lions, in their first World Cup since 1998, will also have nothing to lose when facing Spain and Portugal, according to Hadji, who stated, “They are the big nations of football and have won everything already…We have to play our football and fight – actually give it everything against them – because we know that it is not going to be easy. But we can surprise them.” Though the grouping has presented Morocco with a difficult path out of the first round, the national team looks good heading into the World Cup, having not lost a game or allowed a goal in the qualifiers.
In other soccer news, AC Milan announced on December 5 that it was opening a new soccer school in Laayoune – in the Sahara region of Morocco – joining a number of premier soccer clubs, including Real Madrid and Arsenal, in establishing training clubs in the Kingdom. In a press release, AC Milan welcomed the new partnership with the city as “a great achievement for the sporting politics of the city of Laayoune,” as it “offers an educational opportunity to all the youngsters of the city,” who will enjoy free access to the facilities and training with an official “Red and Black” coach, Fabio Vicardi. The project was also welcomed by mayor of Laayoune Hamdi Ould Errachid, who has been a champion of sports in the city. As the release noted, “passion for football and for AC Milan has now reached the sand dunes of the Sahara.”
Moving from the pitch to the green, it’s an exciting week for women’s golf in Morocco, as Maha Haddioui, the first Arab golfer on the Ladies European Tour, tees off at the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic, which will take place from December 6-9. Haddioui hopes that a good showing could mark a “watershed movement for women’s golf in the Arab World.” “It’s a little girl’s dream, even if you are 28, you still have a dream to win in the region – Dubai or Morocco,” she said, adding, “If that happens it will sort of inspire other women in the Arab world to take up golf.” Haddioui has already achieved a lot to be proud of and success on the Tour would only cap off a pretty great few weeks for Moroccan sports.