October 22, 2011 (CAF)
October 22, 2011 (CAF)
Morocco U-23 Olympic team coach Pim Verbeek believes the first ever African U-23 Championship which will double as the African qualifier for London 2012 Olympic football on tournament has found a worthy replacement venue in Morocco.
The tournament which will run from 26th November till 10th December 2011 was moved to Morocco after initial hosts Egypt pulled out. The Dutchman was quick to give reasons for saying so and insisted he was not simply stating this position because he was in charge of the new hosts but the omens for the tournament were bright. Morocco has very good infrastructure, hotels and stadiums and there will be a good turnout to the games said Verbeek.
“The crowds to the matches are likely to be very good judging by the recent numbers witnessed when Morocco U-23 played two friendly matches against Gambia. We had 35 000 and 40 000 fans packed into the stadium in Tangiers.” (One of the venues for next month’s tournament).
An upbeat Verbeek also spoke of his team’s readiness for the competition admitting that there is an added element of the home crowd to spur on Morocco and while this is positive the attention and pressure from media and home fans could have an opposite effect too. Part of his preparation for his team is get the players ready and focused enough to cope with the attention and weight of expectation that will be placed on them during the tournament. “I hope the players will be able to handle this situation” said Verbeek “The support from the Royal Moroccan Football Federation has been great and l could not have asked for more. The only challenge l have at the moment is to persuade some clubs to release key players that l would like to use during this tournament”.
Verbeek is hoping that some of his players particularly those based in Europe may be allowed by their clubs to play in this Olympic qualifier and get a chance to go and chase an Olympic dream in London, something which Verbeek thinks deserves a special recognition even though this tournament does not fall in the category where clubs are mandated by FIFA to release players.
Morocco opens the tournament and their campaign in group A with a match against Nigeria in Tangiers on 26th November at 17.30 pm. The second group A match will follow the opener and will see Algeria take on Senegal.