Morocco’s foreign-born contingent deliver in Qatar | Football News

DOHA: Morocco’s unexpected march to the semi-finals of the World Cup can be attributed in part to a policy of deliberate search for talent in the diaspora to strengthen the national team and give it a better chance of success.
Fourteen of the Moroccan squad’s 26 players were born outside the country, more than any other team in the tournament in Qatar, offering an eclectic mix of players from growing migrant communities across Europe that have them helped to innovate.
The shock 1-0 quarter-final victory over Portugal on Saturday made Morocco the first African and Arab nation to reach the last four of a World Cup.
Canadian born goaltender Younes Bounou conceded only one goal, born in Madrid Ashraf Hakimi was outstanding on the right flank, born in the Netherlands Sofiane Amrabat a powerful midfielder born in France Sofiane Boufal a threat from the left.
Finding eligible players in countries like Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain is now a structured exercise, as opposed to the random system when the first foreign-born Moroccans competed for the national team in the 1998 World Cup in France.
Moroccans make up one of the largest migrant populations in Europe, estimated at some five million, and maintain strong ties to the country. A study by the Council of the Moroccan Community Abroad, a government agency, concluded that 61% of Moroccans in Europe between the ages of 18 and 35 visit the kingdom every year.
The Royal Moroccan Football Federation has talent scouts scattered across Europe and act quickly in the event of a potential conflict of loyalty. Dutch-born Hakim Ziyech has spoken to the Moroccans and Dutch coach Ronald Koeman to find out which country he would commit his international future to before choosing Morocco.
Amrabat, who like Ziyech represented the Netherlands at junior level, changed allegiance for family reasons.
“My parents are Moroccan and my grandparents are Moroccan. Every time I go there, I cannot describe in words what I feel inside, it is my home. The Netherlands is also my home , but Morocco is special,” he said.
“The players are approached very early to attract them to the Moroccan side. We never force things, it’s an honest discussion with the player and his family,” explains Noureddine Moukrim, youth coach in Belgium who scouted Morocco during nine years. .
But there are skeptics of the policy, who believe that this heavy attendance of foreign-born players is delaying opportunities for home-born footballers.
“Before this World Cup, we had a lot of problems with guys born in Europe and guys who weren’t born in Morocco and a lot of journalists said, ‘Why don’t we play with guys born in Morocco?'” , said coach Walid Regragui. , himself a former foreign-born international.
“Today we showed that every Moroccan is Moroccan. When he arrives in the national team, he wants to die, he wants to fight. As a coach, I was born in France, but no one can have my heart for my country.”


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