Connect with us

European Leagues

World Cup: How investment is boosting Moroccan football

Published

on

Morocco’s passion for football was showcased at the men’s World Cup last year, when the Atlas Lions defied all expectations and reached the semifinals in Qatar. That energy is now flowing into the women’s game.

The Moroccan diaspora reaches far across the globe, including a sizeable community numbering close to 10,000 in Australia.

It meant there was no shortage of red-clad fans in the stands for Morocco’s opener against Germany on Monday. And despite the crushing 6-0 defeat, captain Ghizlane Chebbak still wants to give them something to cheer about.

‘Diversity and richness’
“We don’t want to go to the World Cup just to participate,” she told DW. “We want to be the team that no one bets on but that ends up surprising everyone.”

Moroccan culture combines influences from their Amazigh roots, Arab migration, European colonization and African identity.

For many fans like Nadia Bouchti, who has been living in Sydney the past 10 years, it’s a proud moment to see an Arab nation compete for the first time at a women’s World Cup.

“I’m so excited. Their participation can break down stereotypes as well as highlight the diversity and richness of Arab and Muslim cultures,” she said.

“It’s showcasing the talent and determination of women athletes in the region on the global stage.”

The World Cup will be just the latest chapter in a string of achievements in recent years.

More than 45,000 fans packed out the Moulay Abdellah Stadium for the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) final in Morocco’s capital Rabat.

The hosts weren’t supposed to be there, but pulled off a shock win against 11-time winners Nigeria in the semifinals. They lost the final 2-1 against South Africa, but it represented a massive shift for Chebbak, who won player of the tournament.

“Things have changed since the WAFCON. We managed to change society’s perception of women’s football at that tournament,” she told DW.

“The fans’ love is really encouraging and gives us motivation to continue our work. And the Moroccan FA is making huge efforts to provide the necessary conditions. It may take time, but I’m convinced women’s football will shine in the coming years.”

While the Moroccan Football Association has invested in the women’s game since 2009, it’s been a rapid transformation since president Fouzi Lekjaa kickstarted a four-year plan in 2020 with support from the country’s monarchy.

They professionalized the top two divisions, provided set minimum wages for players and the staff of all clubs, and bolstered grassroots funding.

Hiring Reynald Pedros was another masterstroke. The French coach won two women’s Champions League titles with powerhouses Olympique Lyon and quickly reshaped the landscape.

Pedros introduced training standards and tactics and player confidence rose.

“These achievements are the result of continuous work over the years. We had big ambitions,” Chebbak said. “Now we’re concentrating on the World Cup.”

Morocco will rely on foreign-born talent with Moroccan roots at this tournament with Rosella Ayane (England), Yasmin Mrabet (Spain) and Elodie Nakkach (France) playing vital roles.

But the professionalization of the domestic leagues should be the bedrock for future generations.

Shifting opinions on women’s sport
Chabbak was fortunate that her family were always supportive of her dream to play professional football, particularly her father, Larbi, who represented the men’s national team.

“I grew up in a football-loving family who supported and advised me. My father always provided me with guidance,” she said. “Thankfully, I can say that I made him proud and I want to make him even prouder.”

Others weren’t so fortunate, facing opposition from their community and even their own family members.

“We lost many talents due to societal views and families’ rejection,” Chebbak explained. “I knew many talented players who had the potential to go far. But families were afraid of allowing their daughters to play football and prevented them from doing so.”

Germany are Morocco’s first opponents
“I’m so proud to witness these achievements and see Morocco contribute to the growth and recognition of women’s football,” said Bouchti, who traveled to Melbourne to attend the opener against Germany. “We just want to thank them for raising our flag and making us very proud.”

Group H isn’t set to get much easier with games against South Korea and Colombia to come.

And the confidence running through this team should help them achieve their lofty goals.

“It was incredible to qualify but now our focus is on the World Cup,” Chebbak said. “We know it will be challenging but we will concentrate on our style of play. We want to be competitive and reach the second round.”

Given Morocco’s meteoric rise in football in recent years, their ambitions appear within reach.

Source: dw.com

Author

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

European Leagues

Chelsea disown ‘racist player’ Enzo Fernandez in official statement

Published

on

Chelsea have announced they have begun an 'internal disciplinary procedure' following video footage of Enzo Fernandez singing an

Chelsea have announced they have begun an ‘internal disciplinary procedure’ following video footage of Enzo Fernandez singing an offensive song about France with his Argentina team-mates.

It has caused fury and outrage amongst his team-mates at Stamford Bridge.

“Chelsea Football Club finds all forms of discriminatory behaviour completely unacceptable. We are proud to be a diverse, inclusive club where people from all cultures, communities and identities feel welcome,” the club statement reads.

“We acknowledge and appreciate our player’s public apology and will use this as an opportunity to educate. The Club has instigated an internal disciplinary procedure.”

The chant, which was chanted after Argentina’s Copa America victory, has received criticism for lyrics described as racist and transphobic.

Chelsea investigating Enzo Fernandez video as team-mate Wesley Fofana blasts ‘racist’ chant
The chant begins: “On passport, French nationality, listen, spread the word, they play in France, but they are all…”, before someone is heard saying “cut the video”. It is unclear whether the players continued singing the chant.

The full lyrics to the song are: “Listen, spread the word, they play in France, but they are all from Angola, they are going to run well, they like to sleep with trans people, their mum is Nigerian, their dad is Cameroonian, but on the passport it says: French.”

Fernandez issued a statement apologising for his behaviour before the club’s comments.

“I want to apologise sincerely for a video posted on my Instagram channel during the national team celebrations,” Fernandez said in his statement. “The song includes highly offensive language and there is absolutely no excuse for these words.

“I stand against discrimination in all forms and apologise for getting caught up in the euphoria of our Copa America celebrations. That video, that moment, those words, do not reflect my beliefs or my character. I am truly sorry.”

The midfielder’s club team-mate Wesley Fofana had earlier blasted the video, sharing it with the caption: “Football in 2024: uninhibited racism.” Fofana, as well as fellow French Chelsea players Malo Gusto and Axel Disasi, appear to have unfollowed Fernandez on Instagram.

The French Football Federation earlier issued a statement of their own on the matter. “The president of the French Football Federation, Philippe Diallo, condemns in the strongest terms the unacceptable racist and discriminatory remarks which were made against the players of the French team in the context of a song sung by players and supporters of the Argentina team after its victory in the Copa America and broadcast in a video on social media,” the statement began.“

Faced with the seriousness of these shocking remarks, contrary to the values of sport and human rights, the president of the FFF decided to directly challenge his Argentine counterpart and FIFA and to file a legal complaint for insulting remarks of a racial and discriminatory nature.”

A number of Chelsea supporters have responded on social media following the club’s statement. “Hope this internal procedure is principled and robust,” wrote one.

“Heart is heavy with all this,” wrote another.”Hope Enzo is truly apologetic and that the French boys can forgive him.”

Chelsea’s squad members have returned to pre-season training ahead of a tour of the United States. Their first pre-season game will take place on July 2024 against Wrexham, with four further fixtures to follow before a friendly back at home against Inter Milan on August 11.

Fernandez has yet to return to club duty after his international responsibilities with Argentina. A number of Blues players involved in the latter stages of the Copa America and European Championships have been given additional time off before returning to club action.

 

Author

Continue Reading

European Leagues

Inside Gareth Southgate’s England exit – the possible replacement

Published

on

Gareth Southgate's tenure as England manager came to an end on Tuesday morning. At 11am BST, the FA confirmed the verdict, and the

Gareth Southgate’s tenure as England manager came to an end on Tuesday morning.

At 11am BST, the FA confirmed the verdict, and the country was officially in the post-Southgate era. He was no longer ‘the one’.

A 329-word first-person statement was published across England’s website and social media channels, a clear sign that this decision was firmly led by Southgate, who wanted to depart by directly addressing the nation.

90min understands it was always likely Southgate would have walked away from the job if England didn’t win Euro 2024. The FA had hoped if the Three Lions were victorious in Berlin or performances across the tournament as a whole were promising, they would be able to convince the 53-year-old to stay on for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Alas, England limped to the Olympiastadion and Southgate made the call to stand down quickly after the loss to Spain.

Southgate is widely credited as the architect behind England’s club-style feel which ultimately led to their return to international prominence and contention. He was not sacked nor pressured to leave. It was a fast and collaborative decision, and the FA do not have a singular leading candidate in mind at the moment.

However, their shortlist is relatively short, with only four-to-five names under consideration at this moment. This is due to succession-planning, regardless of whether Southgate left now or later, being underway for over a year.

The odd-one-out among the names discussed is Mauricio Pochettino, who is the only foreign coach in the FA’s thinking. But sources have told 90min that this does not mean the Argentine is at a disadvantage – the best candidate for the job will be hired regardless of nationality.

Pochettino is open to an approach from the FA and has made no secret of his love of English football and living in the country.

Mauricio Pochettino


Pochettino’s predecessor at Chelsea, Graham Potter, is another name on the FA’s list. He was highly regarded during his spell in charge of Brighton & Hove Albion, and it is believed any official judgement in regards to the England job would be framed around his job at the Amex Stadium, rather than his difficult spell at Stamford Bridge.

Potter has rejected various offers since leaving Chelsea in April 2023, and though he is open to international management, he could still turn to club football again if he is presented with the right offer.

The FA admired Southgate for his three-year stint in charge of England’s Under-21s, and that side’s current boss, Lee Carsley, is also a candidate. The FA want to set up pathways for coaches as well as players, and Carsley, who led the U21s to European Championship glory last summer and has worked with a sizeable portion of the senior squad, is expected to be involved in the process.

And then there is the most intriguing candidate – Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe, who has long been touted as a potential Southgate successor.

 

Eddie Howe

90min understands Howe would consider taking the England job even though Newcastle will fight to keep him.

Newcastle are in a building process as they try to compete consistently with the Premier League’s big six. Yet changes behind the scenes at St James’ Park, although ambitious ones, could lead Howe to consider his options. He certainly hasn’t lost faith in the Magpies’ project, but there has been quite a bit of upheaval and the England job doesn’t come around too often.

Last week, it was announced that co-owners Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi would leave Newcastle. Right there, Howe lost two of his allies in the boardroom.

Paul Mitchell has also been appointed as the club’s replacement for sporting director Dan Ashworth, who was finally granted permission to leave for Manchester United earlier this month. Howe has huge respect for Mitchell, who could yet be a factor in him choosing to remain since the former Monaco sporting director is seen as a major coup. But what is clear is Dougie Freedman was Howe’s first choice for sporting director, as he was for many in the Newcastle hierarchy, but he chose to stay at Crystal Palace.

Newcastle want Howe to stay but they won’t deny him an interview if one is offered and would respect his decision.

If Howe is chosen, and we are a long way from that still, he will require compensation, but this won’t be a problem for the FA, who are more willing than clubs to pay managerial release clauses. Nevertheless, they have been handed a financial boost, as the amount quoted in Howe’s contract is now lower than the £8m sum they would have had to pay had Newcastle qualified for Europe.

There is also a dark-horse contender in Wolves’ Gary O’Neil, who has fans from within the England setup. Thomas Tuchel has also been linked with the vacancy as well, but FA sources have downplayed the possibility of him being a candidate.

 

Author

Continue Reading

Euro 2024

All you need to know about Euro 2024

Published

on

Held in Germany, Euro 2024 will officially begin on Friday, 14 June 2024 at the Allianz Arena, home of Bayern Munich. Scotland will be the

BBC Sport provides the lowdown on all the key details for Euro 2024.

When will the tournament start?
Held in Germany, Euro 2024 will officially begin on Friday, 14 June 2024 at the Allianz Arena, home of Bayern Munich. Scotland will be the team facing the hosts in the first match to kick off the tournament.

It will continue for a month and conclude on Sunday, 14 July at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.

This will be the first time that Germany has hosted the tournament since reunification, with the 1988 edition held in West Germany.

Who are the favourites?

At the time of writing, England are favourites at 7/2 and France 4/1 with the bookmakers, while hosts Germany are 5/1.

The next closest is Spain at 8/1, while Scotland are 100/1 to go all the way.

What are the groups?
Group A: Germany, Scotland, Hungary, Switzerland

Group B: Spain, Croatia, Italy, Albania

Group C: Slovenia, Denmark, Serbia, England

Group D: Poland, Netherlands, Austria, France

Group E: Belgium, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine

Group F: Turkey, Georgia, Portugal, Czech Republic

What is the format?
The format will be the same as for Euro 2020.

The top two teams in each group will progress to the round of 16, along with the four best third-placed finishers.

How can I watch it?
BBC and ITV will share broadcasting coverage of Euro 2024 in the UK, following the pattern that was in place for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and previous European Championships.

Where are England and Scotland going to be playing?
England’s group-stage matches: 16 June v Serbia in Gelsenkirchen (20:00 BST), 20 June v Denmark in Frankfurt (17:00 BST), 25 June v Slovenia in Cologne (20:00 BST).

Who could they meet in the knockouts?
If England top Group C, they will face one of the third-placed teams from Group D, E or F in the last 16.

The Three Lions would face the winner of Group A in the last 16 if they finish second in the group.

If Scotland top Group A they’ll face the second-placed team from Group C, so one of England, Denmark, Slovenia and Serbia.

Should Steve Clarke’s side finish second, they’ll face the second-placed team from Group B, so one of Spain, Albania, Croatia and Italy.

Both sides could also progress as one of the four best third-placed teams in the group stage.

Who are the form teams?
Coming into the tournament, six teams were unbeaten during qualifying – France, England, Portugal, Belgium, Romania and Hungary.

Portugal are the only side who won every match, ending qualifying having scored 36 goals and conceding only two.

Spain and Scotland lost only one match, while Turkey and Austria also qualified with equally impressive records.

Despite Portugal winning every single qualifying match, they did not have the top goalscorer across these games. That was Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku, who notched 14 goals in eight matches for Belgium.

Which stadiums might we see?

The aforementioned Allianz Arena and Olympiastadion will both be seen throughout the tournament but there are 10 host cities in total, including Cologne and Dortmund.

Signal Iduna Park, home of Borussia Dortmund’s ‘yellow wall’, will host matches in Groups B, D and F, while also being selected as one of the venues for the last 16 and the semi-finals.

Here is the full list of venues for the tournament:

Berlin: Olympiastadion (70,000 capacity)

Cologne: Cologne Stadium (47,000),

Dortmund: BVB Stadion Dortmund (66,000)

Dusseldorf: Dusseldorf Arena (47,000)

Frankfurt: Frankfurt Arena (48,000)

Gelsenkirchen: Arena AufSchalke (50,000)

Hamburg: Volksparkstadion Hamburg (50,000)

Leipzig: Leipzig Stadium (42,000)

Munich: Munich Football Arena (67,000)

Stuttgart: Stuttgart Arena (54,000)

Are there any key omissions?
Manchester City forward Erling Haaland and Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard will play no part in the competition in the summer as Norway failed to qualify.

In the same group as Spain and Scotland, they didn’t accumulate enough points to gain an automatic spot and cannot qualify via the play-offs either.

Sweden are another notable nation that will not play a part in Germany, failing to qualify for the first time since 1996.

When are the Euro 2024 fixtures?
Friday, 14 June

Germany v Scotland (20:00 – Group A)

Saturday, 15 June

Hungary v Switzerland (14:00 – Group A)

Spain v Croatia (17:00 – Group B)

Italy v Albania (20:00 – Group B)

Sunday, 16 June

Poland v Netherlands (14:00 – Group D)

Slovenia v Denmark (17:00 – Group C)

Serbia v England (20:00 – Group C)

Monday, 17 June

Romania v Ukraine (14:00 – Group E)

Belgium v Slovakia (17:00 – Group E)

Austria v France (20:00 – Group D)

Tuesday, 18 June

Turkey v Georgia (17:00 – Group F)

Portugal v Czech Republic (20:00 – Group F)

Wednesday, 19 June

Croatia v Albania (14:00 – Group B)

Germany v Hungary (17:00 – Group A)

Scotland v Switzerland (20:00 – Group A)

Thursday, 20 June

Slovenia v Serbia (14:00 – Group C)

Denmark v England (17:00 – Group C)

Spain v Italy (20:00 – Group B)

Friday, 21 June

Slovakia v Ukraine (14:00 – Group E)

Poland v Austria (17:00 – Group D)

Netherland v France (20:00 – Group D)

Saturday, 22 June

Georgia v Czech Republic (14:00 – Group F)

Turkey v Portugal (17:00 – Group F)

Belgium v Romania (20:00 – Group E)

Sunday, 23 June

Scotland v Hungary (20:00 – Group A)

Switzerland v Germany (20:00 – Group A)

Monday, 24 June

Albania v Spain (20:00 – Group B)

Croatia v Italy (20:00 – Group B)

Tuesday, 25 June

France v Poland (17:00 – Group D)

Netherlands v Austria (17:00 – Group D)

Denmark v Serbia (20:00 – Group C)

England v Slovenia (20:00 – Group C)

Wednesday, 26 June

Slovakia v Romania (17:00 – Group E)

Ukraine v Belgium (17:00 – Group E)

Czech Republic v Turkey (20:00 – Group F)

Georgia v Portugal (20:00 – Group F)

 

Author

Continue Reading

Trending