La Tour Hassan Palace, Rabat, Morocco
It was a battle of titanic proportion Saturday night into the early hours of Sunday as Morocco beat arch rivals, Egypt to win the CAF U23 Africa Cup of Nations by 2-1.
Morocco U23 coach Isaam Charai at the post match conference rightly credited the Moroccan monarch, King Mohammed VI, as the inspiration for the astronomic rise in Moroccan football standard.
To those who may not know, the coach’s statement could be considered an act of flattery. Bit it is not. Rabat will convinced doubters.
No country would have had such facility and will not excel in sports. It was at the complex that the Moroccan team camped. A visit to the Mohammed VI Football Complex at the Sale area of Rabat will reveal a royal state of the art facility which the monarch has given to the kingdom.
The imposing building where the players were camped
One of the items that catches attention at the vast entry lounge of the unique football complex is a huge framed picture of the reception accorded the 1976 Africa Cup of Nations winning team of Morocco.
All the players in the picture wore maroon coloured suits. In the middle of the group picture is a young boy, then 13. He wore a blue suit and a stripped tie.
That was the then Prince Mohammed who is today, King Mohammed VI. The magnificent football complex in Rabat is named after him.
The official photograph of the reception for the Africa Cup of Nations winners, Morocco. In the middle is the then Prince Mohammed who is now King Mohammed VI
Little wonder, Charai, the head coach of Morocco’s U23 team, attributed their success to King Mohammed VI. “We lifted this cup for King Mohammed VI,” Charai proudly declared.
The coach emphasized that their triumph was not a stroke of luck but a result of the team’s discipline and unwavering focus.
Information gathered reveals that there are three more of such football training complexes, though in lower scale, in Morocco while others are still being planned.
King Mohammed’s association with sports, especially football therefore pre-dated his ascension to the throne on 23 July 1999 upon the passing on of his father, King Hassan II.
Football in Morocco has blossomed under King Mohammed VI. At the moment, Moroccan clubs are holders of both the CAF Champions League and the CAF Confederation Cup.
Women’s football has received a big boost as the Moroccan women’s team will debut at the FIFA Women’s World Cup to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand later this summer.
Prior to King Mohammed VI reign, the Moroccan women’s team was like a punching bag in the African Women’s Championship.
For instance, the team was pummeled 8-0 by Nigeria on 17 October 1998. But only last year, Nigeria’s Super Falcons struggled in vein and were eliminated by Morocco in the semi-finals.
King Mohammed VI was born on 21 August 1963, the day the Nigeria Football Federation (Founded 1933, though they seemed not aware) clocked 30.
He is not the only royal person interested in sports. The imposing Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat is named after an uncle of King Mohammed VI, indicating the royal family’s strong obsession for sports.
Another indication could be gleaned from the picture of the trophy presentation to Real Madrid when the Spanish giants won the 2014 FIFA Club World Cup.
The trophy was presented by Prince Moulay Al Hassan, the Crown Prince of Morocco. At the time he was making the trophy presentation, he was 11 years old.
When in 2013 Raja Casablanca emerged as runners-up at the FIFA Club World Cup, following their 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich they were rewarded with a futuristic complex.
For their performance, His Majesty King Mohammed VI, the sports inclined ruler of Morocco opted to reward the club with structures instead of pecuniary which is the norm in Africa.
A football academy located on a 7.5 hectares of land in the district of Ain Jemâa, in Bouskoura area of Casablanca is the remarkable gift to Raja Casablanca. The benefits are for ever.
A visit to the site was mind blowing. No club will own such facility and not be encouraged to scale greater heights.
Entrance to the imposing Raja Casablanca Academy, another of King Mohammed VI ‘s gift to Morocco
Mohammed Marouan is the Secretary General of the academy.
Pointing at the photograph that adorned the reception of the academy, he was full of praise to the Moroccan monarch for the kind gesture.
In the photograph is Prince Moulay Rachid, the younger brother to King Mohammed VI, as he presented the Moroccan Throne Cup trophy, the Moroccan national cup competition to Raja Casablanca’s skipper after the 2017 final match.
Raja club holds their training session on the natural grass pitch of the Academy. One of such training session was held on Thursday the eve of their 5-0 defeat of Vipers of Uganda in the CAF Champions League.
According to Marouan, the Secretary General of the academy, the club comes there to train at the facility, which has a standard natural grass training pitch as well as another one that is hybrid synthetic.
Two others were under construction at the time of the visit. In addition are four other training pitches, all lush green.
Marouan explained that the academy which was opened on 22 September 2022. currently have about 30 students, although the capacity is high. The apartments housing the academy players have 45 rooms and each has two beds for the young players.
On a typical day at the academy, the students are expected to be up from bed by 7: 00am and be ready for breakfast 30 minutes later.
By 8am, they should be leaving for school where they are expected to have breakfast from 8 to 8.30 am and launch at 1pm.
They will have snacks at 5pm and dinner at 8.00 pm. By 10.30pm, they are expected in their rooms.
Expectedly, the academy is equipped with well staffed clinic and equipment that ensure the good health of the inhabitants.
“We have four buildings (A, B, C and D). Building A is reserved for first-team players”, Marouan explained.
The Raja Casablanca team have two workouts a day. “It allows them to rest during the day and avoid returning to Casablanca and coming back again.
“Buildings B, C and D are dedicated to young people: cadets, juniors and hopefuls. We have 10 single rooms for the technical and medical staff,” he explained.
One of the large rooms of the complex have a trophy shelf where diplomas and trophies won by Raja Casablanca are displayed.
Indeed, the Raja Club Athletic Academy is a model in Africa.
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