By Mohammed Qasserras
By Mohammed Qasserras
Morocco World News
Kenitra, February 7, 2012
Everyone in Morocco these days, from sport journalists to artists, children to grandparents even Muslim Imams like Shikh Nahari, speak the language of sports. Badou Zaki, the former goalie and coach said, “when the Moroccan National Soccer Team loses a match, everybody in Morocco is sports expert!”
Moroccans have a special love of sports, soccer in particular, and a fondness for sports science which allows them to analyze teams and gauge their strengths and weaknesses. Fans are heard speaking with the same authority as experts:
“The Marbella training camp was more like a vacation. They should have chosen a place similar in weather and nature to Gabon, the host country, or like the Arab Gulf area or Africa,” Adil, an unemployed young man said.
“What I do not understand is why Kantari was at the pitch, even though he had not played for six month due to injury. Although MAS club won the African Cup and WAC club played the final in another African Tournament, we did not see anyone from the National League on the pitch, it‘s a shame,” said Rahal, a carpenter.
“We signed a contract with a coach who has no experience with national teams, why would we do that?” asked Khadija, a high school student.
Moroccan culture is highly verbal; people take time to converse everyday and exchange ideas, with sports being the dominant topic of discussion. The multiculturalism of Moroccan society means there is a global sports culture, with Moroccans following European and Latin American soccer teams also.
Studies have shown that ninety percent of Moroccans watch soccer games at cafes. This social phenomenon deserves the attention of a cultural anthropologist. What is the link between cafes and sports? Which comes first: the popularity of cafes or the popularity of watching sports in a group? Whatever the origin, the cafe/sports interaction is an essential and unique aspect of Moroccan culture.
Moroccan media promotes unfailingly the Moroccan National Soccer Team. The team’s performance is misrepresented and a false ideal is sold to the public. Numerous songs are composed and slogans like “support,” “watch,“ and “don’t miss” are used to evoke a sense of patriotism among the people.
Before the decisive Gabon match at the African Cup of Nations, Facebook and Twitter users used to support the team. But after the team lost, these same social media sites were used to condemn the Ministry of Sports and Moroccan Football Federation. Likewise, prior to the loss, newspapers portrayed the Moroccan National Team as heroes and able to win the cup. But after the defeat, the newspapers wrote angrily against the players, the coach and Morocco’s Football Federation.
In my experience, Moroccans never before protested against the Moroccan National Team, but that’s what happened last week in Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco. Heartbroken fans took to the streets, protesting the defeat, calling for the coach to step down, and criticizing the officials of the Federation. Moroccans seem to have learned well Arab spring’s lesson to voice anger, even apparently, when it applies to sports. Arab revolution terminology has been used in sports contexs like “Eric Gerets degage! People want Zaki! Friday: Victory or Depart!”
The latest defeat is still the focus of an avalanche of criticism. Jawad Bada, the Aljazeera sport reporter said the day of the defeat, “today due to this catastrophe in CAN, everybody will evaluate the performance of the Lions of Atlas, even grandparents and children. Everybody is speaking about soccer today.”
Shaikh Nahari, the famous Imam and Muslim scholar, well-known for his harsh criticism of the government, blamed the Moroccan Football Federation for the loss and mocked the training period that the National Team of Soccer held in Marbella. For him holding the camp in a tourist destination like southern Spain was “ridiculous”, and did not prepare the team to play in Gabon, a very hot area.
Fouad Sahabi, a sports journalist, said on Medi1TV that all Moroccans speak out about sports, from taxi drivers to barbers and fruit sellers. What makes things worse is when writers with little formal education or training in sports analysis write articles and columns in national magazines and newspapers. “This habit—frankly speaking—must be stopped,“ he said.
Addictively watching soccer games on TV might be seen by some as a waste of time, but it certainly has some positive effects on the audience. The more games watched, the deeper the fans knowledge. I see watching matches as an informal education in the field that allows people to discuss the game with greater complexity and authority.
Soccer fans improve their Arabic language skills listening to well-spoken Aljazeera sports reporters. Many have never been in school, but being interested in soccer helps them acquire vocabulary and ideas. Some will even imitate famous Arab sport reporters in their manner of speaking, a popular trend among young people. Statistics show that Moroccans read almost exclusively sport articles.
Soccer or sports as a science is ubiquitous. It incorporates aspects of sociology, geography, psychology, physiology, biomechanics, management, anatomy and much more. Following soccer exposes fans to a global culture and people can become knowledgeable about other countries’ culture and customs.
The dominance of sports culture has made every Moroccan an expert. What Moroccans cannot understand is why foreigners are hired as coaches and paid salaries of 250,000 Euros. There are 36 million coaches in Morocco. Why not give one a chance and see what difference they can make?
Edited by Jasmin Davey
Mohammed Qasserras is s a teacher of English in Rabat. He received his B.A in English Studies and Culture. He has published a number of articles and short stories in different publications. In 2009 he was selected as the best Moroccan writer ( short story category) by British Council in England with an incorporation with the university of London in Paris which allowed him to participated in Médi-Café Trans- Maghreb Creative Writing Project which brought writers from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Britain in a unique form that enriched all partners. In 2010 Mohammed was a visiting Fulbright Scholar at City University of New York teaching Arabic Studies and Culture. While being in the US, Mohamed had the chance to study American Foreign Policy, Anthropology and Modern Arab History. His research areas of interest include Culture, Journalism, Literature, Politics, History and Business.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy.