The incident begs the question: Why do many athletes either irregularly migrate and is it in search of better living conditions and a better sporting system?
Rabat – Two Moroccan boxers have vanished after arriving in Poland to participate in the 2021 AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships held in Kielce, Poland from April 13-23.
The athletes, Reda El Bouyahyaoui and Ilyas Belmlih, fled the Moroccan training camp shortly after their arrival.
Apart from El Bouyahyaoui and Belmlih, the men’s national boxing squad competing in the international championship includes Hamza Saadi (49 kg), Yassine Knitri (52 kg), Aymane Khanchaf (64 kg), Zouhir Khiraoui (69 kg), and Mohammed Bouhmada (91 kg),.
The women’s team includes Salma Lerlali (51 kg) and Hajar Bahdi (57 kg).
The team’s Head Coach is Abdelhak Achik, bronze-medal holder at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, manager Nabil Menyam, and technical director of national teams, Mounir El Barbouchi.
The disappearance of the two athletes is a reminder of an incident in 2019, when two Moroccans, Yassine Bendada and Abdelaziz El Madini, fled while participating in the same event.
El Bouyahyaoui and Belmlih join a long list of athletes who fled the country in hope of a better future.
On October 23, 2019, Moroccan taekwondo athlete Anouar Boukharsa documented his irregular migration trip to Spain in a video that went viral on social media.
Less than two months after his arrival, internet users shared a picture of Boukharsa’s participation card in the Spanish championship after he joined a local martial arts club.
Before Boukharsa, many Moroccan athletes left for Europe including members of AS Sale and the Atlas Lions’ youth squad. Most notably, AS Sale’s Hicham Kellouch, Atlas Lioness Meriem Bouhid, OC Safi football club player Ali Hababa, and petanque champion Hicham Boulassal embarked on undocumented journeys to Europe.
The incidents raise several questions surrounding the reason athletes flee to European countries, whether by irregular sea migration or after arriving in European territory.
Moroccan athletes often find themselves in precarious conditions after they finish their careers, or after sustaining career-threatening injuries as most need to find a job to finance their sporting preparations or even to finance everyday life.
With that being said, it is necessary to recall that the Moroccan sporting system does not always provide the necessary equipment and material to develop young Moroccan talent and propel them into the international arena.