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World Cup: How investment is boosting Moroccan football



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.


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Record-breaking Lamine Yamal now worth €1 billion at 16 years of age




Lamine Yamal is now worth €1 billion (£866m/$1bn) at just 16 years of age, with Barcelona inserting a huge release clause in his new contract.

The talented teenager, who has continued to rewrite the record books at Camp Nou and with the Spain national team, has committed to fresh terms through to 2026. Barca have moved to ensure that they will remain the ones to benefit from Yamal’s undoubted potential.

Barca have said on the club’s official website: “Lamine Yamal has whizzed up through the youth ranks and is regarded as one of the hottest properties to come out of La Masia in recent years.

He was just 15 years, 9 months and 16 days old when he made his league debut against Betis on 29 April 2023, making him the youngest player ever to appear in a competitive fixture for the team. Xavi Hernandez has gradually been using his services more and more, and after joining the squad for its preseason tour, he become the youngest ever starter for FC Barcelona in a game against Cadiz this season, and against Royal Antwerp he became the second youngest player ever to appear in the competition.

And despite his youth, he has already won his first international cap for Spain. In a game against Georgia he not only became the youngest player ever to play for ‘La Roja’, but also the youngest ever goalscorer.”

Yamal is following in some illustrious footsteps after stepping out of the famed La Masia academy system – with fellow graduates including Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Carles Puyol and Pep Guardiola.

Barca have made a habit of tying hot prospects to deals with mammoth release clauses – having had their fingers burned when Paris Saint-Germain triggered a €222m (£192m/$234m) option on Neymar’s contract back in 2017 – with similar terms having been thrashed out with the likes of Ansu Faiti, Pedri and Gavi.

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Sports Ministry Will Prioritise Funding For All Sports – Minister Enoh




The Honourable Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh has reiterated that his administration prioritizes the funding of sports in the country, as the Ministry will work with all sports federations to determine focus areas, through budgetary submissions.

The Minister made this known during a briefing with pressmen in Asaba, the host city of the 7th National Youth Games. He stated that his experience in this area, while serving as the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation (Federal House of Representatives) led him to proactively direct on the necessary steps to take for the proper funding of sports in the country.

“The only way to provide for the proper funding of sports is to look at the number of federations, an itemization of their peculiar activities, and to provide as needed,” Senator Enoh said. “For example, if in 2024, a particular sport will undertake pieces of training, and participate in competitions (both local and international), the only way to solve the incident problem of lack of funds, athletes missing out on competitions because of finances, is to provide for all of these ahead of time,” he added.

“As much as possible, I am going to push for this to be done, because it is the only way that we can properly budget for sports development. The ministry is desirous of making credible progress in this regard,” The Honourable Minister concluded.

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Man United fans fly ‘Glazers Out’ banner over Tampa NFL stadium




Man United fans fly 'Glazers Out' banner over Tampa NFL stadium

A group of Manchester United supporters based in the United States have flown a banner reading “Glazers Out” over the Raymond James Stadium in Florida.

The banner was seen over the stadium ahead of the Monday Night Football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — the NFL franchise owned by the Glazer family, who also own Premier League giants United.

The banner was organised by Manchester United supporters groups based in Pittsburgh and Tampa. Footage of the plane and its message was shared online before the match, which the Eagles won 25-11.

The move is the latest protest against United’s owners by fans who are keen for them to sell the club.

The Glazer family, who have owned United since 2005, announced last November they were considering “all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions.”

This led to bids being lodged by prospective buyers, but despite receiving several offers, the Glazer family are still yet to make a final decision on whether to sell their stake in the club.

United have failed to win the Premier League since legendary former manager Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, with their last Champions League success coming in 2008.

Former Ajax boss Erik ten Hag was appointed as the club’s new head coach last year. United won the Carabao Cup in Ten Hag’s first season in charge and reached the FA Cup final while securing Champions League football with a third-place finish in the league.

However, United have endured a difficult start to the new season, losing three out of their first six Premier League games.

The United manager’s problems have been exacerbated by several off-field issues.

Brazil winger Antony has agreed to a leave of absence from the club in order to address accusations of abuse made by three women, while fellow winger Jadon Sancho is training away from the first team group following a public spat with the Dutch head coach.

Forward Marcus Rashford walked away unhurt after being involved in a car crash following United’s 1-0 win over Burnley on Saturday.

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