Faces of Football: Morocco

Dear Moroccan national team,

I am Nabil Hamdaoui, aka Nabil Skily, aka Nabil Au Brésil and, like most Moroccan 80s babies, I grew watching Diego Maradona’s Argentina, Roberto Baggio’s Italy, Ronaldo’s Brazil, Zinedine Zidane’s France and, most importantly, Mustapha Hadji, Noureddine Naybet and Salaheddine Bassir’s Morocco. 

Although only two years old and too young to remember, I was alive for our round of 16 game during the 1986 FIFA World Cup – a first for a North African country. My elders used to tell me about the joys of that tournament and also the 1976 Africa Cup of Nations when Ahmed Faras led the nation to its first continental title.

The first tournament I remember Morocco playing in was the 1998 World Cup – and what a bittersweet one it was. We were knocked out in the group stages, but were so close to making it through to the round of 16 and would’ve if not for Brazil’s shock defeat to Norway on the final matchday. It was heartbreaking, but I was so proud of my nation for their efforts in France. 

The excitement and pride we have in our national team has always been real. This was passed on to us from previous generations who got a taste of glory during the nation’s golden era for football, and while we haven’t quite hit those heights since, the hope has remained because we’ve always been able to produce at least one or two truly top class footballers. 

From the 90s legends I grew up watching like Salaheddine Bassir, Noureddine Naybet, Mustapha Hadji, to this new generation of Hakim Zyech, Youssef En-Nesyri, Yassine Bounou, Achraf Hakimi, we’ve always had great players, yet have often lacked the team spirit and unity to make the most of these talents. Russia 2018 was a prime example of that as it took us a bit of time to really come together as a squad, and due to this we ended up being knocked out in the group stages. 

I’m hoping this World Cup in Qatar will be different, and one where we prove our true credentials on the world stage. It’s been a long time since we gave a really good account of ourselves at a World Cup –  since 1998 – but we’ve always trusted that Morocco has the potential to do great things at a major tournament again with the right players and team spirit. I hope we have both now.  

This year’s tournament is key for us as a nation. We need to put the last minute coaching changes and internal problems the squad has faced and give a good account of ourselves in order to show the world who we really are. 

We are Morocco. 

We live for football. 

We celebrate the team with all our hearts, on and off the field. 

Let’s take it step by step, and make our country proud one game at a time. 

We trust you. We love you.


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