Even when King Mohammed VI got involved, we tell you about the revival of Moroccan teaching

Panenka, synonymous with Achraf Hakim’s victory against Spain in the round of 16, quickly inspired his successors. Just two days later, midfielder Houssam Essadak (17) scored the same gesture in the penalty shoot-out in the final against CNEPS Excellency of Thiès (Senegal) during the Africa Cup of Nations to offer Mohammed VI Academy victory. Held in Agadir, this prestigious U19 tournament symbolically honored the crowned Moroccan team, despite the presence of OGC Nice, Red Bull Salzburg or Jean-Marc Guillou academies in Mali and Côte d’Ivoire. At the same time, 11 of the 26 “Atlas Lions” who will challenge France in the semi-finals of the world championship to be held in Qatar this Wednesday (20:00) have trained in the country. Selection has never been based on such local representation for a major competition.

They include managers from Sevilla FC’s heroic goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who trained at Wydad AC from the age of 8 to the age of 21, during his impressive back-to-back performances against Belgium, Spain and Portugal. There are also defenders Jawad El Yamiq (ex-Khouribga and Raja Casablanca Under-26s) and Yahia Attiyat-Allah (still playing for Wydad), crucial passers against Portugal on Saturday. This list includes former Mohammed VI Academy residents Nayef Aguerd, Azzedine Ounahi and Youssef En-Nesyri, all of whom were fully trained in Morocco before joining Europe. Many examples that prove that this Moroccan selection is not only based on the talent of dual nationals Sofiane Boufal and Romain Saïss (France), Sofyan Amrabat, Hakym Ziyech and Noussair Mazraoui (Netherlands), Selim Amallah (Belgium) and of course Achraf Hakimi (Spain).

13 million euros invested by King Mohammed VI

Enzo Djebali, former head of recruitment at Stade de Reims, notes, “Morocco has been working on their training for a really short period of time. The Mohamed VI Academy is its flagship and the realization of a consciousness: there was no reason why the academies of Jean-Marc Guillou and Paradou Athletic Club (Algeria) in Africa should not produce the best players from Morocco. Before heading the OM training center, Nasser Larguet was chosen by King Mohammed VI in 2008 to implement this pharaonic project with a construction cost of 13 million euros. As Technical Director of this 18-hectare structure (with 8 football pitches, a swimming pool and a weight room) located in Sale (near Rabat) until 2014, he explains. 20 minutes where was moroccan football at that time.

At that time, we lost the thread in Morocco: the country was no longer producing footballers who would join Europe. There was no continuity in the training review. In the selection, including in the youth category, we called for dual citizens more and more. When the main championships of the country started, the clubs were only interested in young people from the U15 category. Their priority was not to train, but to get good results. »

Add to that the absence of the 2002 and 2006 World Cups (then 2010 and 2014), and you understand how urgent it was in the ears of King Mohammed VI in the 2000s. Then Nasser Larguet traveled the whole country and organized dozens of revelations. He was 9 years old and the first promotion of the Academy was born in September 2009, Nayef Aguerd already in their ranks. In four years with Nasser Larguet, 47 of the 57 youngsters released became professionals, dozens joined European clubs.

Nayef Aguerd is one of the key players in this Moroccan selection, even if he did not participate in the game against Portugal due to injury. – ADIL BENAYACE/SIPA

Great job on the “mental side”.

Abdellatif Belmahdi, the U15 coach and in charge of the Mohammed VI Academy since 2010, presents the main direction of the training course “which is not a copy of the models in Europe”: “We want to train for high level demands and for this we work a lot on the mental aspect. In our sessions, the players, for example, they have to be able to score points in a certain amount of time, otherwise they have to resist as well as possible the game situations that are down in numbers.”Hey, as the A’s did in extra time of Saturday’s quarter-final against Portugal (1-0).

Mohammed VI Academy also knows how to showcase its talents by participating in numerous tournaments in Africa and Europe. Last month, his U19s beat Strasbourg and Troyes national U19s, as well as Valenciennes (N3) reserve team during their tour of France. “Morocco has such a pool of players and such opportunities, not only in our academy, that these children have nothing to envy to those who study in France,” says Boubacar Gadiaga, a French-Senegalese coach at OM and head of the play. Department in academia. There were a hundred scouts at the Africa Cup of Nations and we feel there is a lot of interest in our 2005 generation, seven players I think are ready for the top level. »

The Mohammed VI Football Academy currently has 98 residents divided into five age categories from U13.
The Mohammed VI Football Academy currently has 98 residents divided into five age categories from U13. – AMF

Strasbourg often attract young players in Morocco

A quality pool that does not neglect French clubs, as Strasbourg trained goalkeepers Alaa Bellarouch and Walid Hasbi as well as defender Anas Nanah at Sale for two years. In 2018, the Alsace club also signed Azzedine Ounahi, who is now known worldwide as Luis Enrique’s girlfriend, but did not offer him a chance in Ligue 1. After a remarkable 2020-2021 season at Avranches (National), Angers went for it. .. for less than €500,000 and the midfielder has been one of SCO’s rare delights in the elite ever since.

Even this winter could bring a very big check to the club. “We know that there are areas where we cannot be present due to our economic strength, for example in South America, is convinced Sébastien Larcier, who was the sports director of Angers at the time of this recruitment. Players trained in Morocco remain cheap and their adaptation in France is easier because there is no language barrier. Morocco has always had potential. »

Angevin Azzedine Ounahi is one of the biggest discoveries of this World Cup.
Angevin Azzedine Ounahi is one of the biggest discoveries of this World Cup. – Rodolfo Buhrer/La Imagem/Fotoare/Sipa

Scouts participating in the CHAN and Academy Tournament

Sébastien Larcier knows something about this, as he also contributed to the arrival of Nayef Aguerd to Dijon (for €1.2M) in 2018 before he imploded at Stade Rennais. CHAN, the African Nations Championship for African players playing on the continent, still has many French observers, with Morocco winning the last two editions. Likewise, the Mohammed VI Academy tournament will attract the attention of the whole of Europe, as the local U19s will face off between Real Madrid, Atlético de Madrid or OM and OL.

The Lyon club also has the distinction of betting on a partnership with both FUS Rabat (Morocco D1) and Mohammed VI Academy at the end of 2019. Jean-Francois Vulliez, director of the OL academy, says: “The two institutions are directly managed by the king’s cabinet. These are two of the most excellent training projects in Morocco, so it was natural to work together for a long time, given our DNA. »

OL, the only French club to enter partnerships

In particular, how advantageous is it that OL is the only French club in Morocco to have such a contract, while Achraf Laaziri (19), who trained exclusively at left-back FUS Rabat for three years, has signed a professional contract in Lyon. , without the slightest Ligue 1 appearance to date? Jean-François Vulliez, who visits Morocco two or three times a year, explains: “The first goal is to share our know-how to create the most efficient training course possible. After that, of course, it would be the climax for a player who studied in Rabat or the VI Mohammed Academy to one day be a Ligue 1 starter at OL. This part of the recruitment provides information on players of interest. But we are not a priority: players choose to join the project they want. »

Impressed by these structures “worthy of a European training center” in terms of performance support, medical and school monitoring, Jean-Francois Vulliez is in any case not surprised by the “Atlas Lions” saga in this World Cup: “Considering that the resources invested in this training project, Morocco’s World Cup final four It makes perfect sense to me to be the first African country to step up. The work has been done discreetly but over a long period of time and the country is reaping the benefits today, and perhaps soon it will be the same in women’s football, which is very much developing there.” After all, after the adventure of Walid Regragui and his family, this nation seems armed against all challenges.

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