Morocco has not won a gold medal at the IAAF World Championships since 2005.
Rabat – A total of 17 athletes, 13 men and four women, will represent Morocco in the 17th International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Championship.
The competition is taking place in the Qatari capital, Doha. The championship is set to kick off on September 27 and will run until October 6, 2019.
The male national team is composed of Soufiane El Bakkali, Mohamed Tindoft, and Abdelkabir Benzahra for the 3000m steeplechase competition. Abdelaati Iguider, Brahim Kaazouzi, and Hicham Ouladha will compete in the 1500m events.
Soufiane Boukentar will take part in the 5000m races. Mouad Zhafi, Mustapha Ismaili, and Oussama Nabil will run the 800m events, and Hamza Sahli and Reda Al Arabi will run the marathon. Finally, Yahya Berrabeh will compete in the long jump.
The Moroccan female athletics squad includes Rabab Arrafi and Malika Akkawi in both the 800m and the 1500m competitions. Halima Hachlaf will compete in the 800m events, and Lamia Al Habze will participate in the 400m hurdles races.
During their stay in Qatar, the athletes will be accompanied by Mhamed Rhazlane, the secretary general of the Royal Moroccan Federation of Athletics (FRMA), FRMA’s technical director, two coaches, a doctor, and a physiotherapist.
Morocco in the World Championships
In the previous World Championships, London 2017, Morocco won only one silver medal.
The last gold medal that the Moroccan national team obtained in this competition dates back to 2005 in Helsinki, when Jaouad Gharib won the marathon.
The most impressive performance from the Moroccan national athletics team was in the 1999 World Championships, in Sevilla.
Morocco ranked fifth on the medal table, with two gold medals, two silver and one bronze.
Hicham El Guerrouj and Salah Hissou won the gold for Morocco in the 1500m and 5000m competitions respectively.
Major investments with no results
Since FRMA’s Abdeslam Ahizoune became president in 2006, a number of projects were launched and significant money sums were invested in the sport.
FRMA focused on improving infrastructures and sport facilities all around the country.
Since 2009, FRMA has built 21 athletics tracks according to international standards, with a budget of MAD 283 million. The federation also allocated MAD 157 million to build five regional athletics centers, and MAD 122 million to build Mohammed VI Athletics Academy, in Ifrane.
The federation’s budget also financed other smaller facilities, such as health centers. The aim of the construction projects was to allow Moroccan youth to practice athletics and discover hidden talents in different regions of the country.
The investments, however, did not lead to any remarkable results for Moroccan athletes in international competitions.
The lack of remarkable results from Moroccan athletes was coupled with doping scandals over the years.
In 2012, four Moroccan athletes were eliminated from participating in the Olympic games in London having failed doping tests.
IAAF also banned several athletes from its competitions. Amine Laalou, a middle-distance runner, was banned twice, in 2012 for two years, and in 2016 for eight years.
Halima Hachlaf, who is participating in this year’s World Championship, was banned for four years in 2014, and Mariem Salsouli was also banned for eight years in 2015. Both athletes are middle-distance runners.
In 2016, the IAAF decided to put Morocco on its “anti-doping watchlist,” in response to the recurring incidents.
Morocco was removed from the list a year later, after FRMA put in place a program of regular doping tests for athletes, both on the regional and national level.
In-fighting in the FRMA
In July 2019, Hicham El Guerrouj, a former Olympic and world champion, filed an objection against Abdeslam Ahizoune’s candidacy for the FRMA’s presidency.
El Guerrouj, who was running for the same position, based his objection on the fact that Ahizoune is applying for a third mandate. El Guerrouj said that this is against the association’s regulations.
“There are violations of laws, Ahizoune is not respecting the law in a country ruled by a King who respects the law. In all of his speeches, King Mohammed VI urges [all institutions] to respect the law,” El Guerrouj told Moroccan media.
El Guerrouj was also a huge critic of Ahizoune’s policies at the head of the FRMA.
“We need to intervene fast to put Moroccan athletics back on the right track. If we continue with the same pattern, we will keep going backwards and we will waste everything Morocco has gained in different domains.”
However, in a statement to the press, one of the most decorated Moroccan athletes, Said Aouita, blamed the poor performance of Moroccan athletes in international competitions on coaches and managers.
“The problem that Moroccan athletics suffer from is not administrative, we have the best athletics federation in the world, it is purely technical.”
The Federation, Aouita said,” provides the necessary infrastructure for the development of athletes, but there is some technical staff that doesn’t want to cooperate with the administration.”
The contradicting statements from the two Moroccan legends reflect the internal conflicts within the administration of the FRMA. These conflicts could also be a factor in Morocco’s failure to achieve competitive results in the international athletics scene.
Since the inauguration of IAAF World Athletics Championship, in 1983, Morocco has won 29 medals, including 10 gold, 12 silver, and seven bronze.
Only three medals were obtained in the competition since 2006: two silver and one bronze.