• Transfers: OGC Nice Eyes Moroccan Footballer Sofiane Boufal

    By Morocco World News

    Rabat – Moroccan football player Sofiane Boufal has caught the attention of the French club OGC Nice.

    After being suspended from Southampton Premier League following a fight with his coach Mark Hughes, the Atlas Lion is on the verge of leaving his club at the end of the season.

    Boufal may return to the Premier League, where he shined under the colors of LOSC.

    According 10 Sport, OGC Nice is interested in the 24-year-old player, who is now training with the under-23 years. However, nothing has been made official, as there are no active negotiations at the moment.

    If Boufal is recruited by the French club, he will be following the footsteps of French-Moroccan attacking midfielder Younès Belhanda, who, before joining the Galatasaray Turkish football club, was playing for OGC Nice in 2016.

    Boufal has had his ups and downs with Southampton since he arrived in the summer of 2016, after trading from LOSC for nearly EUR 19 million.

    Born in Paris, Boufal came through the youth system at Angers and made his debut in the French second division at the age of 18. The following season, he became a first-team regular.

    Lille paid EUR 4 million for the Moroccan player in January 2015, which he quickly repaid with his speed and dribbling.

    Boufal first attracted the attention of top European clubs in 2016, when Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, Paris Saint-Germain, and Inter Milan all reported expressed interest.

  • 2018 World Cup: Hervé Renard Will ‘Carry the Moroccan Flag as High as Possible’

    By Morocco World News

    Rabat – A few weeks before the beginning of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Hervé Renard is letting the world know about his determination to take the Atlas Lions as far as possible in the competition.

    In an exclusive interview with France 24, the French coach commented on his team’s 2018 World Cup qualification, discussed his experience as a coach, and expressed his dream of seeing “an African team qualify for the semi-finals.”

    During the interview, Renard shared that he hopes to carry “the Moroccan flag as high as possible” as he praised the “magnificent” national team, especially Mehdi Benatia, who he qualified as “an admirable captain.”

    “We have an exceptional state of mind. There is something really solid here. The strength of this team is its collectivity,” he said, adding that he is very grateful to be surrounded by the “right people,” thanking the the Moroccan football federation (FRMF) for putting him in the “best conditions.”

    The former Ivory Coast coach remains concerned about the World Cup preparation that will take place in the last week of Ramadan.

    “Ramadan [last year] was the most catastrophic [training] period since I arrived in Morocco,” he stated, explaining that the team preparations were poorly managed. “We’ll have to be better this time,” he concluded.

    As the interview went on, Renard mentioned Ayoub El Kaabi, the rising star of the Atlas Lions, “has made a tremendous African Championship.”

    “Today, he must cross a new path that is very high. We are putting pressure on him,” said the very determined coach, who has shared that he is very proud to be “representing Morocco.”

    Renard concluded his interview with optimism: “Morocco can get the organization of the World 2026. It would be great for Moroccan football and I believe it!”

    The tournament will begin on June 14. The Moroccan team will first play against Iran on June 15, while the second game will be against Portugal on June 20. Morocco will then play its last game of the first round of the tournament against Spain on June 25.

    On May 14, the coach will unveil his draft list of 35 names, before releasing his final list on June 4.

  • Moroccans Abroad: Hakim Ziyech Named Ajax Amsterdam Player of the Year

    Morocco World News – After leading Ajax Amsterdam to a major win over AZ Alkmaar (3-0), the Moroccan attacker Hakim Ziyech received the Ajax Amsterdam “Player of the Year” award, for his excellent season, skills and performance.

    At the reception following the match, Hakim declared that the award took him by surprise.

    Erik Ten Hag, Ajax Amsterdam’s manager expressed his ultimate satisfaction with Ziyech: “Hakim is an artist on the field” has declared Erik, “I would want nothing more than to keep him for Ajax.”

    Ziyech has confirmed his will to leave Ajax Amsterdam for an unknown destination, with hopes of exploring himself, as he has stated “I think I’m ready to leave, I’ve said it many times, it’s not new. I want to challenge myself and develop myself, so maybe it’s time to go further and find a new challenge.”

    Numerous European clubs are interested in recruiting the Moroccan footballer, including, Inter Milan and AS Rome. The two Italian clubs have been monitoring Ziyech’s performance and considering signing him since last winter.

    However, the two clubs’ hopes of recruiting the attacker failed, as his value is predicted to rise in a notable way after the Russian World Cup.

    The Italian club Inter Milan has been in negotiation with Ajax, since the fourth quarter of 2016, as the board members have made an offer of 15 EU million to hire Ziyech. Other European countries have expressed their intentions in recruiting the talented player, namely, Liverpool, Dortmund, and Marseille.

    In terms of statistics, the talented Atlas Lion, known for his technique in dribbling and free kick ability, has scored nine goals and 15 assists this season. In total, Ziyech has scored 19 goals with Ajax since his debut with the club in 2016.

    With those kind of stats, there’s reason to wonder: will Ziyech be crowned Netherlands best player of the year?

  • Renard: Morocco Determined to Avoid 1st Round Elimination in World Cup 2018

    (Morocco World News) Rabat – The coach of the Moroccan national football team, Hervé Renard has reaffirmed his determination to achieve an “honorable course” with his Atlas Lions during the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

    In an interview with international sports outlet Goal, Renard said that it will be very disappointing if his team leaves the World Cup green field in the first phase of the tournament.

    “To go further in this competition, we will go to make the best possible tournament, not to participate only.” According to Renard, Morocco’s disqualification in the first round “would be a huge disappointment for Morocco.

    Renard also discussed strengths of the teams that Morocco will confront during the first round: Spain, Portugal, and Iran.

    “For Spain, it has a talented workforce.,” ‘ said Renard, adding that “We should be on our guard.”

    “It is one of the World Cup favorites.”

    Commenting on Portugal, Renard suggested that he will not “minimize the impact” of Cristiano Ronaldo, but rather “evaluate and analyze and give it all the importance it deserves.”

    For the list of 23 players that will be in Russia, Renard said: “90 percent of the list is already established.”

    There is still 10 percent that can vary depending on injuries and last minute unavailability.

    The coach also commented on the case of Moroccan-Spanish footballer Munir El Haddadi, who expressed his desire to play with the Moroccan team in Russia.

    “You have followed the case. Everything was said.”

    There is a small chance this will happen in the World Cup, he added.

    For several months, El Haddadi and Morocco’s Royal Football Federation have attempted to convince FIFA to give El Haddadi the chance to represent Morocco in the World Cup.

    El Haddadi represented Spain at the youth level and made a brief appearance as a substitute in an international game against Macedonia with the Spanish national team in 2014, which ruined his eligibility for the Moroccan national football team, according to the FIFA eligibility committee.

    El Haddadi currently plays for the Spanish club Alaves, where he is on loan from Barcelona during the 2017-2018 season.

    The tournament will begin on June 14. The Moroccan team will first play against Iran on June 15, while the second game will be against Portugal on June 20. Morocco will then play its last game for the first round of the tournament against Spain on June 25.

  • Moroccans Abroad: Sofiane Boufal out in the cold after Mark Hughes bust-up

    (The Guardian) Sofiane Boufal has been banished from Southampton’s first team after an altercation with Mark Hughes during the Premier League defeat by Chelsea and will not be considered for Saturday’s game against Bournemouth.

    The Morocco midfielder, a £16m club-record signing from Lille in 2016, was a substitute against Chelsea at St Mary’s and is understood to have refused to warm up when Hughes instructed him to do so. That apparently led to a clash in the dressing room after Southampton, who had led 2-0 with 20 minutes to play, were beaten 3-2 – since when Boufal has not been in the squad.

    “Unfortunately, Sofi made a mistake, which he acknowledged and he has acknowledged to me since,” said Hughes, who is alleged to have lost his temper with Boufal post-match, with some reports suggesting he threw a water bottle.

    “At the moment he’s training with the under-23s. He’s missed a few days’ training because he was ill but, given where we are at the moment, he’s probably best served training with a different group just to make people aware the situation we found ourselves in wasn’t what should have happened.

    “He understands that now. He probably needs to rebuild a bit of trust with us and his team-mates. That’s what we’re working on. He won’t be involved this weekend. We’ll have to wait and see [whether he can return this season].”

    Hughes, who succeeded Mauricio Pellegrino in mid-March with Southampton having won once in the league since late November, has made clear the need for focus as he attempts to instigate a late revival.

    In that context, Boufal’s reaction could not be tolerated, leaving a player who started the new manager’s first two games but has only two goals and two assists in 26 league appearances this season, an outcast for the foreseeable future.

    “I spoke about focus on the very first day in the job here,” Hughes said. “We can’t allow anything to distract us from the task at hand. We have very few games left. If I feel something might affect that focus, I have to address that.

    “That’s the situation we find ourselves in with Sofi. He made a mistake. He’s remorseful about it, which he needed to be, and we’ll build him back up to be in the group again. But the time for that isn’t now. It’s about him biding his time, doing the right things, until he’s reintegrated.”

    Hughes, who signed a deal until the end of the season, is increasingly resigned to being without his influential midfielder Steven Davis after the 33-year-old sustained an achilles injury.

    “It’s an irritant to him and to us, clearly,” the manager said. “He’ll have a couple of days’ training and then it flares up again. We’ll see where we go with it. We’ve had him scanned and they’ve shown damage in the achilles, so maybe we have to shut him down until next season. I don’t think that’s definitive yet but it’s maybe close.”

  • NT: Former Atlas Lions Legend Henri Michel Passes Away at 70

    By Morocco World News - Rabat- Former Atlas Lions’ coach Henri Michel passed away after a long fight with cancer at the age of 70, on April 24.

    Born on October 28, 1947, in Aix-en-provence, Southern France, Michel led the Moroccan team in 1995-2000 and 2007-2008, in addition to training the local club, Raja of Casablanca in 2003-2004, and 2010, when he led the team to a CAF Cup victory.

    Michel spent most of his career at FC Nantes, where he won three league championships in France and a French Cup. The legendary coach joined the Tunisian national team in 2002 for the Africa Cup of Nations and the Ivory Coast national team in the 2006 World Cup.

    Michel obtained Moroccan nationality upon his return from the 1998 World Cup, and resided between Morocco and France for the remainder of his life.

  • CAF: Former African champions drawn in same Confed Cup group

    BBC Sport

    Three former continental champions were placed in the same group in the African Confederation Cup, when the draw for this year's group stage was conducted in Cairo on Saturday.

    ASEC Abidjan from Ivory Coast, AS Vita Club from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Morocco's Raja Casablanca will play each other in Group A - three teams who have all tasted past success in continental club competition.

    They will ensure a tough tussle in the group phase of African football's secondary club competition.

    AS Vita Club were designated top seeds in the group by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) but it is a status that both ASEC and Raja will quickly set about disputing.

    Another former continental champion, Enyimba of Nigeria, who won the Champions League back-to-back in 2003 and 2004, play in Group C where they are top seeds against CARA Brazzaville of Congo, Mali's Djoliba and the Ivorians rookies AC Williamsville - a club created in 1995 and who recently named Didier Drogba to their board.

    Djoliba, runners-up six years ago, are the only one of this year's 16 group phase participants, who have contested a previous Confederation Cup final.

    USM Alger probably have the broadest smiles after the draw conducted by Caf general secretary Amr Fahmy and his deputy Tony Baffoe at the Caf headquarters on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital.

    USMA were paired with three east African clubs in Group D - newcomers Rayon Sport from Rwanda, the regional giants Gor Mahia of Kenya and Young Africans of Tanzania.

    The clash between the fabled Kenyan club and their Tanzania rivals will be much anticipated in the region.

    Group B's top seeds are Al Hilal of Sudan, paired with two fellow Arab clubs in Renaissance Berkane (Morocco) and Al Masry (Egypt) and the rookies UCD Songo from Mozambique.

    The group phase kicks off on Sunday 6 May and there will be a second round of group matches on Wednesday 16 May before a hiatus for the World Cup.

    The last four rounds of group games are set for July and August after which the top two teams in each group advance to the quarter-finals in September.

    African Confederation Cup draw:

    Group A: ASEC Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Raja Casablanca (Morocco), AS Vita Club (DR Congo), Aduana Stars (Ghana)

    Group B: Renaissance Berkane (Morocco), Al Masry (Egypt), UCD Songo (Mozambique), Al Hilal (Sudan)

    Group C: Enyimba (Nigeria), AC Williamsville (Ivory Coast), CARA Brazzaville (Congo), Djoliba (Mali)

    Group D: Rayon Sport (Rwanda), USM Alger (Algeria), Young Africans (Tanzania), Gor Mahia (Kenya)

  • Moroccans abroad: Walid Azaro becomes highest-scoring foreign player in single Egypt league

    (ARAB NEWS) Moroccan footballer Walid Azaro has just become the highest-scoring foreigner in a single season of Egypt’s premier league, according to local reports.

    Azaro, who plays for Egypt’s Al-Ahly Club, scored latest goal in his team’s match against Wadi Degla team Tuesday.

    With a total of 18 goals, the 22-year-old sets a new record by becoming the highest-scoring foreigner in a single Egyptian League season.

    He overtakook Angolan striker Flavio as well as former Ismaili and Nigerian forward John Utaka, who both held the previous joint-record of 17 goals.

    Al-Ahly is expected to be crowned champions for this season, currently top of the league with 82 points.

  • CAF: Raja Casablanca advance to CAF Confederation Cup group stage

    (Xinhua) -- Moroccan Raja Casablanca hammered Zambian Zanaco 3-0 on Wednesday to earn their ticket to the group stage of the CAF Confederation Cup.

    The 2003-title-holders and the three-time African Champions League winners confirmed their 2-0 win over the Zambian team in the first-leg in Lusaka.

    In front of thousands of their supporters in Mohammed V Stadium in Casablanca, Raja killed the game after only 20 minutes. Morocco's league top scorer Mohcine Yajour broke the deadlock as early as the 15th minute before the other striker Mahmoud Benhalib scored the second goal in the 19th minute.

    Defender Bader Banoune scored the third goal through header from a corner at 77th minute.

    The result confirmed the good record of the Moroccan teams in the African competition this season, after the other representative of the Moroccan football RSB Berkane qualified for the first time in their history to the group stage of CAF Confederation Cup.

    Morocco's Wydad Casablanca and DH El Jadida have also earned a spot in the African Champions League group stage.

    The group stage draw for the two competitions is slated for Saturday in Cairo.

  • NT: Munir appeals to CAS in bid to switch from Spain to Morocco

    (Reuters) - Deportivo Alaves forward Munir El Haddadi has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in his bid to switch allegiance from Spain to Morocco.

    CAS said in a statement that Munir had appealed jointly with the Moroccan Football Federation (FMF) after FIFA turned down his request on March 13.

    The appeal included a request for a decision by mid-May “in order for the player’s sporting nationality to be decided prior to the commencement of the FIFA 2018 World Cup,” said CAS FIFA rules bar players from switching allegiance once they have played a competitive international even if they hold dual nationality.

    Munir, 22, made a single appearance for Spain, in a European championship qualifier against Macedonia in September 2014, when he came on as a substitute and played less than 15 minutes.

    “This was my decision and I knew what I was doing. Since I was young I have played in Spain and this was my idea,” said Munir at the time. “I spoke with people in Morocco and told them that I wanted to play here instead.”

    Munir, who was born in Spain and has a Moroccan father, was raised at Barcelona’s famous youth academy where he made his professional debut and is currently on loan at Alaves.

    He has also spent one season on loan at Valencia.

    FIFA’s stakeholders committee is studying a proposal to make the rules more flexible in such cases.

    Cape Verde’s football federation suggested the rule be relaxed in cases where the player has played only one or two games for his original national side but has no realistic chance of a recall.

    “It’s a good time to have a look at this and see if there are solutions, without hurting the integrity of the game,” said Victor Montagliani, head of the stakeholders committee, in October.

    Spain and Morocco have been drawn in the same group at the World Cup alongside Portugal and Iran.


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