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A Year of Global Excellence for Moroccan Sports

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Moroccan sports reached new heights in 2023, securing triumphs and admiration on global and continental stages in a wide range of disciplines.

In 2023, Moroccan athletes have excelled on both continental and international stages, highlighting the nation’s prowess across diverse sporting disciplines. From the football fields to the athletic arenas, Moroccan athletes have in the past year consistently demonstrated exceptional skill and determination.

These triumphs not only underscore individual dedication but also highlight the robust sports infrastructure supporting excellence in Morocco, fostering a sense of pride and unity across the nation.

The 2023 Moroccan Football Revolution 

Morocco achieved a historic milestone at the very end of 2022, etching its name in football history as the first African or Arab nation to advance to the semi-finals of a World Cup.

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The remarkable journey in Qatar unfolded with triumphant victories over heavyweight opponents such as Belgium, Spain, and Portugal, showcasing prowess and determination.

The Moroccan team’s stellar performance throughout the tournament captivated global audiences, culminating in a fourth-place finish and a riveting semi-final encounter that unfortunately ended in defeat against France, the former world champions.

In October, the Moroccan Royal Palace endorsed the joint hosting of the 2030 World Cup by Morocco, Spain, and Portugal. King Mohammed VI hailed this as a historic step forward for Moroccan football and thanked the three countries’ footballing authorities for their cooperation.

Morocco has also demonstrated prowess in hosting significant continental sports events, such as the Women’s U23 Africa Cup of Nations. Additionally, the nation successfully secured the hosting rights for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2025.

Under the leadership of Fouzi Lekjaa since 2017, the Moroccan Football Federation has achieved these milestones through dedicated efforts, including ongoing reconstruction projects and the development of the Grand Casablanca Stadium with a seating capacity of approximately 99,000 seats.

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Morocco’s national football teams, in all categories, have achieved remarkable success on both the global and continental stages.

The women’s national team, the Atlas Lionesses, made history by securing qualification for the round of 16 in their debut at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia.

The Moroccan U-17 team reached the last eight of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Indonesia 2023, their best result to date. The Olympic squad triumphed at the U23 Africa Cup of Nations, while the Sporting Casablanca women’s team reached the final of the African Champions League.

Meanwhile, the senior Atlas Lions Lions were the first national team to qualify for the final phase of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, which will be held in Cote d’Ivoire at the beginning of next year.

Morocco has notably maintained its standing as the 13th-best national football team in the world and continues to lead both African and Arab countries in the global rankings, outranking countries like Senegal and Egypt.

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At the 2023 CAF Awards in Marrakech, Moroccan coaches and players were honored in several categories. The national team, led by coach Walid Reguragui, won National Team of the Year. Yassine Bounou was awarded Goalkeeper of the Year, while Hakimi and Amrabat were named in the Best Men XI.

In the women’s category, Fatima Tagnaout received the Interclub Player of the Year for her exceptional performances with both the national team and her club AS FAR, earning her a spot in the Best Woman XI. Additionally, Nesryene El Chad, a 20-year-old defender playing for Lille OSC at club level, won the CAF Women’s Young Player of the Year award.

Also this year, Morocco’s short-statured national football team made a significant impact in the category’s global tournament and contributed to a remarkable revolution in the field of football for people with dwarfism. The team achieved a remarkable feat by reaching the quarter-finals in the category’s inaugural 2023 World Cup held in Argentina, marking a historic milestone for this unique sporting event.

Aside from football, the year 2023 has been a great year for Morocco in other sporting disciplines. This includes athleticism, boxing, taekwondo, kickboxing, Muay Thai, Karate, and many other fields.

Moroccan boxing in global stages

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The Moroccan boxing season commenced with the successful 6th edition of the Mohammed VI International Boxing Trophy in Marrakech, where the national team, including both men and women, achieved remarkable success by taking home one gold and three silver medals.

Khadija El Mardi won the world title in the -81 kg category in New Delhi, with this historic achievement making her the first woman from both the Arab and African regions to attain this prestigious honor.

The season finale for Moroccan boxing unfolded gloriously at the African Championship in Yaoundé, Cameroon, where the national team emerged victorious with an impressive haul of 8 gold medals and 2 silver medals.

Moroccan Taekwondo earns global acclaim 

Like their compatriots in other sports, Moroccan taekwondo athletes have left an indelible mark on the international stage, securing top positions. Starting at the Arab Cup in Dubai with 13 medals, their success continued at the African Nations Championship in Côte d’Ivoire, earning 11 medals, including 7 golds.

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The excellence of Moroccan taekwondo has transcended regional boundaries and earned global recognition over the past year. Notably, the Moroccan women’s and mixed teams secured a prestigious silver medal at the 2023 World Taekwondo Championships in Korea.

In adaptive taekwondo, Moroccan champions excelled at the Grand Prix in Mexico, standing on the podium twice, showcasing their skill and determination.

Soufiane Bekkali takes Morocco to the top of the world 

Moroccan race runners joined their compatriots in other sporting disciplines in proudly representing their country on the regional and global stages. They too achieved global success throughout the past months, with the notable point being Morocco’s triumph at the World Championships in Budapest.

Morocco featured honorably at the global championships in the Hungarian capital, with Soufiane Bekkali once again impressing the world with consecutive gold medals in the 3000m steeplechase and Fatima Zahrae Kerdadi taking bronze in the marathon.

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Morocco hosted the Mohammed VI International Meeting, where Bekkali set a world best and a new meeting record in the 3000m steeplechase (7:56.68). Meanwhile, at the 9th Francophone Games in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco set a record with 57 medals—22 gold, 16 silver, and 19 bronze.

Moroccan Muay Thai’s Double Triumph in 2023

Moroccan Muay Thai has also earned acclaim on the international stage. At the World Championship in Bangkok, Thailand, the team secured 10 medals. The U23 selection also excelled, claiming the top position at the World Cup in Turkey in 2023 with a total of 10 medals.

Further solidifying their dominance, the national Muay Thai team triumphed at the Mediterranean Championships in Loutraki, Greece, securing an impressive haul of 7 gold medals.

All of these impressive performances and historic triumphs in various sporting disciplines on the regional and global stage have made 2023 a bountiful year for Moroccan sports. From historic football performances and Muay Thai triumphs to moments in athletics and taekwondo, Moroccan athletes have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with in their respective categories.

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As Moroccans revel in these victories, they serve as a unifying force and a testament to the nation’s growing prominence in the world of sports. With the promise of continued success, Morocco is gradually emerging as a formidable contender, poised for even greater achievements in the future.

-Morocco World News

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Governing Bodies

Tinubu backs Amaju’s FIFA Council re-election bid

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Former Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president, Amaju Pinnick has secured the backing of Nigeria’s President,  Bola Tinubu in his bid to get another term in office as one of Africa’s representatives in FIFA Council.

The 37-member FIFA  Council is the main decision making body of the organisation in the intervals of FIFA Congress. 

Pinnick is the third Nigerian to ever sit in the FIFA Council after Oyo Orok Oyo (1980-1988) and Dr. Amos Adamu (2006-2010).

Pinnick was elected into the council on 12 March 2021. He is bidding for re-election in 2025 when the current term lapses.

According to a media release from the State House and signed by Chief Ajuri Ngelale, the Special Adviser to the President on Media & Publicity,

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President Bola Tinubu expresses strong support for Nigeria’s bid for re-election into the FIFA Council

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Governing Bodies

Save Our Soccer, African Sports Journalists plead with Motsepe

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

An SOS has been sent by the International Sports Press – Africa (AIPS -Africa) to the President of Confederation of African Football (CAF), Dr. Patrice Motsepe to save the soul of African soccer.

 The sports writers’ body has written an open letter to Motsepe on the need to do more to save African football.

The letter, written Monday in Dakar, is premised on the recurring scheduling problems that “have made CAF a victim of collateral damage from the “war” between UEFA and FIFA.”

Continuing in the letter signed by AIPS-Africa President, Abdoulaye Thiam, the sports writers’ body noted that UEFA contributed to overloading of the international calendar with the creation of the Nations League, which is played on FIFA dates

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Owing to the congested international calendar, football competitions in Africa have been major victims.

AIPS wrote: …”the stuttering and uncertainties surrounding the programming of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) leave many wondering about the future of our continent’s most prestigious competition, which is struggling to find a place in the international calendar.

“Added to this, the external influences and the overload of the international calendar, modelled on the European interests, increases the scepticism surrounding the survival of CAF’s most lucrative and economically viable tournament.

“As a result, therefore, it is rare, if not impossible, for an African team to find a European team to spar with, except when they share the same group in a World Cup draw every four years.     

“As for FIFA, in addition to the Arab World Cup, it has also created the Club World Cup. Worse still, it decided to stage the latter competition from June 15 to July 13, 2025, a period initially chosen by Morocco to host the AFCON 2025. In fact, Cairo’s dependence on Zurich enabled FIFA’s latest competition to happily shake up the 67-year-old African Cup of Nations.”

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Also affected by the global football calendar are the scheduling of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and African Women’s Champions League.

The journalists recalled that the changing of AFCON tournaments from the even-ending years to the odd  was to avert situations of clashing with World Cup years and to avert exhaustion on players.

The situation is such that scheduling of tournaments in Africa is now determined by compromise reached with UEFA and FIFA.

AIPS averred that “it is important to deconstruct the image of Africa as a prominent stakeholder in the global game with huge voice of 54 member associations and votes being presented as an electoral cattle-tank, to be adequately given their fair share during debates and dialogues with FIFA, by offering constructive solutions with a view to accelerating a reform of the international calendar.

“It is therefore expected from CAF leaders to ensure respect for African Football which is full of great administrators and players alike…Mr. President (Motsepe), you claim to be a disciple of Nelson Mandela and a well respectable man. A man of principles. So do kindly refuse and remain our inspiration than anything else.”  

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Governing Bodies

Breaking! CAF’s axe falls on Eto’o

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Confederation of African Football (CAF) has imposed a fine of $200 thousand on Samuel Eto’o Fils, a former international footballer and President of Fédération Camerounaise de Football (‘’FECAFOOT’’).

  The fine is imposed on the FECAFOOT president for violating the principles of ethics, integrity and sportsmanship as provided in Article 2  paragraph 3 of the CAF Statutes.

He is found to have violated the said article by signing a Brand Ambassador contract with the company 1XBET in exchange for remuneration.

 He however escape sanction in a bigger allegation of match fixing and manipulation.

Eto’o faced charges of alleged manipulation of football matches and violating the principles of ethics and integrity.

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The Disciplinary Board ruled that there was insufficient proof to find him and Valentin Nkwain guilty of match manipulation.

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