The success story of Morocco’s CHAN 2018 was not limited to traditional big city stadiums alone. This time, and for the first time in the history of CHAN, the continental tournament was also played and celebrated in prisons.
As local footballers from African nations represented their countries in the past weeks, inmates in four different correctional facilities in Morocco, too, tasted a similar joy and excitement.
Over a hundred inmates representing 12 African countries played the tournament in the correctional facilities of Tangier, Marrakech, Agadir, and Casablanca.
But it is at the correctional facility of Oukacha, in Casablanca, that the two final matches of the inmates’ CHAN were played on Thursday.
Mali played against Cameron in the third place match.
With national flags waving and overenthusiastic chants of national anthems greeting and cheering the players, as if in a traditional match, Cameroon beat Mali 4-2.
“We wanted to play and win the cup. Although we failed to do that, we are happy to win the third place match”, said Francis, a Cameroonian inmate, adding that he is grateful to King Mohamed VI and the technical staff for “thinking about us African inmates.”
“Africa forever”, on could read on the facility’s main Gates as the teams prepared for the games.
The final was played between Morocco and Guinea. Morocco won by 8-7, with Morocco’s defender Abderrahmane saying that he is happy to represent his country. The tournament, he later explained, smiling, was a burden-lifter, a sort of way to forget about their daily problems and bring them back to life.
In attendance on the final day of the tournament were an important delegation from CAF and the Royal Moroccan Football Federation including, amongst others, the tournament’s Ambassadors Tunisian Abdel Chadly and Congolese legendary goal keeper Robert Kidiaba.
In spite of their daily difficulties, inmates were excited and happy to be around famous African footballers and important officials who had come to watch their matches and cheer them up.
The inmates’ CHAN was part of an agreement signed between the Royal Moroccan Football Federation and the Moroccan Prisons Services to provide various support to correctional facilities across Morocco. The tournament, the organizers said, is a facet of a broader program of social rehabilitation.
“There are talented, high level-players in prisons”, joked Abdelmoumen Cherif, a former local footballer and member of the technical staff of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation, adding that he is happy that Morocco won and would like to witness the same triumph in tomorrow’s CHAN final between Morocco and Nigeria.