Morocco’s firm focus on grassroots football has lessons for SAFA

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Morocco’s concerted focus on grassroots football is beginning to pay handsome dividends after the country’s Under 20 national team secured qualification for next year’s Nations Cup in Mauritania after a 15-year absence.

Morocco’s Under 20 team last qualified for the tournament in 2005.

The Under 20s qualification comes after the Under 17s already qualified for the Nations Cup competition scheduled for March next year in Morocco. 

Morocco’s futsal team is also producing results, now ranked 21st in the FIFA rankings, and considered the best in Africa.

It won the last two African Cup of Nations, including the 2020 home edition in Laayoune.

Considerable progress

Morocco Football Federation (FRMF) president Fouzi Lekjaa said the country’s development focus is on the national teams and on club level.

“The considerable progress is as a result of extensive work done by the Royal Moroccan Football Federation for several years. After a restructuring of the National Technical Directorate, the Federation has set concrete and ambitious goals for each age group, not to mention the clubs from its championship.”

And as proof, he added, Morocco had four clubs in the semi-finals of the Champions League and the CAF Confederation Cup in 2020. A record that demonstrates the good organisation and balance of Botola’s clubs.

The FRMF further pointed out that the Moroccan championship dominates the CAF CLUB rankings with three clubs – Raja, Wydad and Berkane – in the top 10.

“These three clubs – Raja, Wydad, and Berkane, have won four major trophies in Africa in recent years: the Champions League, the CAF Cup (2) and the CAF Super Cup.”

Investing in infrastructure development

The federation believes its goals have been achieved because of the efforts in infrastructure development.

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The FRMF has equipped the whole kingdom with high-level infrastructure that allows clubs to provide professional training to players, and to enable national teams to adequately prepare for competitions.

“Apart from the Mohammed VI Football Complex, a jewel of modernity, each regional league (there are 12) has a federal football center and each club will have a training center (like THE FUS and Raja).”

The Atlas Lions, Morocco’s national team, participated in the 2018 edition in Russia, after a 20-year absence.

In the African Cup of Nations, Morocco managed to reach the quarter-finals in 2017, their highest progression in 13 years.

At the 2019 finals, Morocco got out of the group stage but bowed out after a penalty-shootout loss against Benin in the round of 16. 

Former international Lamiaa Boumehdi has welcomed the plans set formally out by the FRMF aimed at developing the women’s game in the country

The new plan includes the launch of a two-tier professional championship from next season, the establishment of a national under-17 championship, and regional championships for youth categories across the country.

“Our objective is to develop and broaden the basis for women to play football in all regions of the Kingdom,” said Lakjaa as he unveiled the plans.

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The top-flight teams in the new women’s league will be entitled to monthly funding from the FRMF of up to $130,000 while for second-tier sides it will be $86,000 to help pay the salaries of players and technical staff.

The regional leagues will get just over $10,000 for the development of women’s football as long as they respect the terms of the contract.

At least 1000 technical managers will be trained specifically for women’s clubs and the FRMF aims to train 90,000 practitioners by 2024.

“When there are careers and livelihoods in female football, more commitment can be made by former players, coaches, and referees who genuinely care about its growth and development,” said former USA international Kelly Lindsey, FRMF’s women’s football director.

Also on thesouthafrican.com: Football: Safa urges PSL clubs to beef up their medical teams

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