from MOHAMED EL KADIRI in Marrakesh, Morocco
MARRAKESH, (CAJ News) – BY reaching the quarterfinals of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup, Morocco, has underlined its status as the continent’s best nation in the sport.
On current form, that is.
Being the only African side remaining in the tournament in Qatar reinforces that status.
While all the focus has been on the so-called favourites here, manager Walid Regragui and the Atlas Lions have gone about their businesses calmly.
Some of these “favourites” are in fact overrated outfits thriving on reputation. As reality strikes and the Atlas Lions roar, they have exited Qatar with tails between their legs.
The latest to bow out is Spain, defeated by Morocco on penalties on Tuesday.
While the result by Africa’s second-best side by rankings (behind Senegal) and 22nd in the world has sent shockwaves around the world, those knowledgeable about Moroccan trends recently are stunned.
Back in Africa, the Moroccans are this year’s undisputed kings and queens of the beautiful game.
They are basking in the glory of a clean sweep of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) tournaments.
A glance at their achievements in 2022 makes for some glorious reading.
Wydad Athletic Club, the side from Casablanca, are the reigning CAF Champions League champions.
Renaissance Sportive (RS) de Berkane are the holders of the CAF Confederation Cup and CAF Super Cup.
In fact, RS have won three of the past five editions of the CAF Confederation Cup.
Raja Athletic Club won the last edition before RS, making it four wins for Moroccan sides in the last five editions. Wydad and Raja contest the 66-year-old Casablanca derby.
Also this year, the Association’s Sports of Forces Armed Royal (ASFAR) won the CAF Women’s Champions League.
Morocco also reached the final of the inaugural Women Africa Cup of Nations, which they hosted but lost to South Africa.
However the silver medal finish qualified the Lionesses of Atlas to the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.
Record attendances confirmed the country’s solid interest in women’s football.
The overall success is attributed to the commitment by the Royal Moroccan Football Federation’s (FRMF) commitment to the game and stability, in a continent where football federations are fraught with infighting.
“Moroccan football is starting to reap the rewards of the federation’s good work, achieving great success at all levels of both the men’s and women’s game,” FIFA stated.
On the eve of the match against Spain, FRMF distributed free tickets to Moroccan fans amid a shortage.
– CAJ News