Rabat – On the 44th anniversary of the Green March in Morocco, football legends from around the world will convene at the Sheikh Mohamed Laghdaf Stadium in Laayoune for a gala match on Wednesday, November 6.
The annual Green March celebration commemorates the 1975 movement when 350,000 unarmed Moroccans marched into the Sahara. The march protested the Spanish occupation of Western Sahara during the rule of King Hassan II.
The anniversary of the Green March is celebrated in Morocco as a national holiday, and the football match in Laayoune is a key component of the annual celebration.
Dozens of internationalfootball stars, most of whom are retired, will face off in the traditional Green March gala match.
The players will be divided into two teams based on their country of origin. One team will consist of players from Africa and the Middle East, and the other welcomes players from the rest of the world.
Some of the football stars have taken to social media to announce their arrival in Morocco, much to the delight of their Moroccan fans who have been leaving words of welcome under the players’ photos.
The African team
Khalilou Fadiga, a retired Senagelse midfielder, shared an Instagram selfie this afternoon announcing his touchdown in Morocco.
In his caption, Fadiga described the 1975 Green March as a “milestone in the history of the Kingdom,” tagging the photo #sahara.
Nader El-Sayed, a former Egyptian goalkeeper, shared several Instagram stories last night from Dar Moha, an upscale Moroccan restaurant in Marrakech.
Zoubaier Baya, a retired Tunisian midfielder, has been sharing photos of himself in Morocco since Sunday. He posted a photo to his Instagram story last night with Kalusha Bwalya, a Zambian former international footballer, after sharing videos of his outings in Marrakech.
Baya also snapped a group photo with Tareq al Taieb and Karim Haggui.
Al Taieb, a Libyan midfielder, shared the same photo on his Instagram.
“With the stars of Arab and African football,” his caption reads in Arabic.
Al Taieb also posted a photo with Ismail Youssef, a retired Egyptian football player, at the Savoy Le Grand Hotel in Marrakech.
Haggui reposted the group picture with Baya and al Taieb, as well. The Tunisian national, who is now a coach in Germany, also shared a photo with Roger Milla, a retired Cameroonian forward.
In an Instagram story, Haggui posed with his wife at the Royal Mansour Hotel in Marrakech.
Mali, Nigeria, Ghana, and Niger will also be represented by football stars at the Green March gala match. Two players from Saudi Arabia will be on the African team, along with a player from the UAE.
The list of 20 confirmed players on the African team also includes Abedi Pele and Samuel Eto’o.
The international team
Javier Saviola shared a photo on Instagram yesterday of himself seated beside a Moroccan flag. The photo’s location is simply tagged Morocco.
“Hello Morocco,” his caption reads in Spanish. “It’s a huge joy to be here again.”
Saviola is a retired forward from Argentina. The 37-year-old played for various European teams throughout his career, including Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Fellow Argentine footballer Hernan Crespo, the country’s fourth-highest goalscorer, confirmed his arrival in Morocco today with an Instagram story.
Rafael Marquez, widely regarded as one of the best Mexican footballers of all time, shared a video of himself in Marrakech on Instagram.
Rivaldo Ferreira announced his arrival in Morocco today through Instagram stories, posted to both his and his wife’s profiles.
The retired Brazilian footballer, known as Rivaldo, was the second top goalscorer in his first season at Barcelona.
Luis Figo, an iconic retired Portuguese midfielder for Barcelona and Real Madrid, also arrived in Marrakech today after celebrating his 47th birthday on November 4.
Edmilson Moraes, known as Edmilson, shared a video with his Instagram followers as he boarded a flight from Istanbul to Casablanca.
The 2002 World champion from Brazil played for Sao Paulo, Olympique Lyonnais, and Barcelona during his international football career.
Footballers from Italy, Serbia, Mexico, Spain, Uruguay, Portugal, and France will also represent the international team at the Green March gala match.
The list of 18 confirmed players on the international team also includes Diego Forlan and Cafu.
Fans of the retired Brazilian star Ronaldinho, who participated in the Green March gala match last year, will be disappointed by his absence from this year’s event.
False reports circulated among Moroccan news outlets that David Beckham, a retired English football star and UNICEF ambassador, was set to participate in the Green March match.
UNICEF UKdenied these claims on Twitter.
As a branch of the UN, UNICEF holds a neutral position in the Western Sahara conflict. Beckham, as a UNICEF ambassador, is bound by the same regulations.
The Green March anniversary football match serves as a celebration of Morocco’s momentous protest against Spanish imperialism while promoting the Kingdom as a football destination.