Connect with us

International Football

Internal feud hits Morocco’s World Cup squad




Morocco’s Royal Football Federation (FRMF) hit back at Moroccan media for attacking Moroccan footballer Zakaria Aboukhlal and accusing him of religious fundamentalism.

News outlet Achkayen sparked controversy after publishing a report accusing Aboukhlal of religious fundamentalism. The disturbing news report included a misleading title that reads: “Aboukhlal, a ‘Salafi’ in the National Football team.” 

The adjective Salafi refers to belonging to a reformist sect of Sunni Islam, but in Morocco, the word is almost synonymous with Islamist fundamentalism and ideological extremism.

In a statement on Sunday, the football federation reacted to an outrageous news report, saying that it “denies the accuracy of the information included in the news report,” explaining that Aboukhlal’s “behavior, much like all his teammates, had been exemplary, all towards achieving honorary results.”

In addition to slamming the report for attacking the football player and the image of the national football team, the federation said that it would take legal action to “protect members of the national football team” and “refute all false claims that extends to their behavior or their personal lives while they are fulfilling their national duties.”


The statement comes two days after Arabic-speaking news outlet “Achkayen” published the said report.

Further down in the report, the news outlet explicitly accuses Aboukhalal of taking advantage of the team’s World Cup achievement to “attract more followers” to adopt “his religious views that he had received from Salafi religious scholars in Europe.”

Recalling the famous incident of a German media broadcasting a segment associating Moroccan football players with the Islamic State, the article claims that Aboukhlal’s behavior “pushed German media to accuse the entire team of belonging to the terrorist group.”

The German report, however, did not directly accuse the national team of being affiliated with the ISIS group, rather they had claimed that Morocco’s football players display the Shahada sign – a raise of the index finger – when posing for pictures, adding that the sign is “appropriate by ISIS.” 

The channel apologized for the report later on, adding that it was not their “intention to offend Islamic religious feelings.”


Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

Continue Reading