Appearing to merge from a self-imposed seclusion, Moroccan athlete Hicham El Guerrouj has called on King Mohammed VI “to save Moroccan athletes.”
Rabat – In a rare public statement in a recent interview with Morocco’s Radio Mars, retired Moroccan middle-distance runner Hicham El Guerrouj said that Moroccan athletics is in bad shape and requires a royal intervention to regain its pass glorious days.
The heavily Olympics-decorated 44 year-old is widely considered as the greatest middle-distance runner of all time, having won trophies in different categories of the sport.
But El Guerrouj said that those victories are relics of an ancient time for younger generations of Moroccan athletes who wish to emulate him.
According to El Guerrouj, even with a burning desire to compete and propel their country at the forefront of the discipline on the world stage, Moroccan athletes are increasingly faced with public disinterest and lack of support.
“While there are no facilities where athletes can take bath or change, millions are being spent on walls, buildings, and other trivialities,” El Guerrouj said, appearing to target the country’s recent history of lavish spending on mega projects.
Of his self-imposed seclusion from public life and debates on the sport that made his name, El Guerrouj said that the choice to remain silent on some issues, especially the fate and future of Moroccan athletes, was “conscious and deliberate.”
He said he avoided visibility and public statements “out of respect for the people in charge and their strategies” and also because “I wanted to let them attend to their job with calm and serenity.”
But his silence has not helped, he suggested, explaining that the situation of Moroccan athletes has worsened in recent years.
Moroccan athletics has a glorious history with names such as Aouita, Skah, Boutaib, or Bidouane.
Those early successes were possible because Moroccan authorities were engaged and supportive. Today, however, continuity has been stalled because nothing substantive is done to help the new generation replicate the success of their elders, the 44-year-old stressed.
“Today, the reality is that [Moroccan] athletics is going from bad to worse, from failures to even more failures, and as a result generations of athletes are unfortunately lost… Today athletes don’t even have places to change or take a bath, this should be punished. I call on King Mohammed VI to save [Moroccan] athletes.”