Why do the stars of the “Atlas Lions” prefer to represent Morocco instead of European teams

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The exceptional brilliance of the Moroccan national team in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar led to the emergence of many names within the “Atlas Lions”, which contributed abundantly to the most prominent Arab and African achievement – so far – in the history of the competition, and what aroused the attention of the observers is the origins of the Moroccan players, who A number of them are unable to speak Arabic; But they cling to their Arabism and Moroccanness.

Many interested people believe that the unexpected success achieved by Morocco in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and its access to the semi-finals to face the defending champion France, is due – in part – to the policy of relying on migrant talents to strengthen the ranks of the national team, and to give these players an opportunity To shine and succeed.
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Fourteen players in Morocco’s current World Cup squad of 26 were born outside of Morocco, the most of all the teams participating in the current tournament, giving the squad a vital diversity given the variety of places where these players grew up.

After the unexpected 1-0 victory over Portugal in the quarter-finals – yesterday, Saturday – Morocco became the first Arab and African country to advance to the semi-finals of the World Cup finals.

Canadian-born goalkeeper Yassine Bono conceded only once, while Madrid-born Ashraf Hakimi shone on the right.

Sofiane Amrabat, who was born in the Netherlands, is a great force in midfield, while opponents fear Sofiane Boufal, who was born in France, and who plays on the left.

Association with “mother”

The questions that arise about the reasons for the preference of these stars to play for the national team of their country of origin at the expense of the country of emigration may be answered by the pictures taken of them after each match of the World Cup.

Stars – such as: Ashraf Hakimi, Abdelhamid Sabiri and Sofiane Boufal – grabbed the spotlight in the festivities, after they decided to share it with their mothers, who show from their clothes that they adhere to their Moroccan origins.

In this context, the Moroccan journalist and researcher Muhammad Yassin commented in his interview with Al-Jazeera Net that the large part of “the attachment of these illustrious names to their homeland is mainly due to their upbringing in a 100% Moroccan environment, even if they were born in the country of emigration.”

“Moroccan families in Europe and elsewhere, despite the living conditions and the necessity of harmony with the culture of the country of emigration, are known for their adherence to traditions and origins, and their great eagerness to teach this to their children,” says Muhammad Yassin.

The Moroccan researcher believes that “the decision-maker in Morocco, and the Royal Moroccan Football League, understood this well, and proceeded to address (the family) before the player, in order to persuade him to carry the shirt of the motherland instead of the country of emigration.”

State policy

The Moroccan authorities are working systematically to find talents that the country can benefit from in other countries. Such as: the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy, in contrast to the previous irregular method in dealing with expatriate talents, which caused Morocco to not benefit from its immigrant talents before the 1998 World Cup in France.

The Moroccan community is one of the largest immigrant communities in Europe – currently – with an estimated number of 5 million people, and they have strong ties with their country.

A study reported by Reuters showed that 61% of Moroccans residing in Europe, between the ages of 18 and 35, visit the Kingdom every year.

The number of professional players in the ranks of the Moroccan national team in the seventies and eighties of the last century was counted on the fingers, and perhaps the most prominent of them: the player Miri Karimo, who contributed to achieving the qualification of the Moroccan national team for the second round of the World Cup in Mexico 1986, while the composition of the national team was formed at that time from players belonging to the major local clubs. Similar to: Raja and Wydad Casablanca, the Royal Army, the Kenitra Club, and others.

However, after the 1998 World Cup, the balance of strong attendance shifted in favor of the players from the Diaspora, who get the lion’s share of participation within the national team, while the local league represents only a few players.

Moroccan journalist Mohamed Yassin believes that “this experience did not pass without criticism. Every time failure and problems occur within the national team, fingers are pointed at the professional player, who has always been accused of negligence and a lack of patriotism.”

However, the same spokesman believes that “this view may change now forever after the combativeness and valor shown by the players in Qatar, and their achievement of the greatest football achievement in the history of Moroccan sports,” as he put it.

How does Morocco search for its talents in the diaspora?

Moroccans do not wait for the emergence of stars in the sky of major leagues and clubs to begin attempts to convince them to represent their country of origin instead of their mother country. Rather, the process begins very early, within the academies and the age groups of the national teams.

For this, the Moroccan Federation of the game has hired a group of scouts to explore and they are touring all over Europe in search of Moroccan talent, and they move quickly when there are differences over affiliations and loyalties.

Hakim Ziyech – born in the Netherlands – spoke with the Dutch and Moroccan sides before deciding on his international destination and choosing Morocco, despite the great pressure he was subjected to by the Dutch media and fans.

Amrabat – who represented the Netherlands in younger age groups (like Ziyech) – also switched to representing Morocco for family reasons.

“My parents are Moroccan and my grandparents are Moroccan,” he said. “Every time I travel to Morocco, I can’t describe my feelings in words. This is my country. The Netherlands is also my country, but Morocco has a special place.”

Despite the clear reference to this method; There are those who oppose this trend, saying that it affects the chances of players born in Morocco.

As for the last inspiring stories, they are those of Ashraf Hakimi, who considered his choice to play with Morocco instead of Spain because he felt that he “belongs to this country, not to another country.”

Source : Al-Jazeera

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