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Another breeding ground of Moroccan football stars uncovered in Casablanca

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On Friday 10 February, Raja Casablanca made a mince meat of Vipers of Uganda in their Match Day 1 of the CAF Champions League.

The score line of 5-0 manifest the ruthless efficiency of Raja Club Athletic, one of the continent’s most successful clubs.

The call card speaks volumes: Three times African Champions, two times CAF Confederation Cup winners, two times CAF Cup winners and the eternal holders of the MKO Abiola CAF Cup.

In the FIFA Club World Cup, Raja Casablanca were runners-up in the 2013 edition after a 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich.

For their performance, His Majesty King Mohammed VI, the sports inclined ruler of Morocco opted to reward the club with structures instead of pecuniary which is the norm in the continent.

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A football academy located on a 7.5 hectares of land in  the district of Ain Jemâa, in Bouskoura area of Casablanca is the remarkable gift to Raja Casablanca. The benefits are for ever.

A visit to the site was mind blowing. No club will own such facility and not be encouraged to scale greater heights.

Mohammed Marouan is the Secretary General of the academy.

Pointing at the photograph that adorned the reception of the academy, he was full of praise to the Moroccan monarch for the kind gesture.

In the photograph is Prince Moulay Rachid, the younger brother to King Mohammed VI, as he presented the Moroccan Throne  Cup trophy, the Moroccan national cup competition to Raja Casablanca’s skipper after the 2017 final match.

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Raja club holds their training session on the natural grass pitch of the Academy. One of such training session was held on Thursday the eve of their 5-0 defeat of Vipers of Uganda in the CAF Champions League.

According to Marouan, the Secretary General of the academy, the club comes there to train at the facility, which has a standard  natural grass training pitch as well as another one that is hybrid synthetic.

Two others were under construction at the time of the visit. In addition are four other training pitches, all lush green.

Marouan explained that the academy which was opened on 22 September 2022. currently have about 30 students, although the capacity is high. The apartments housing the academy players have 45 rooms and each has two beds for the young players.

On a typical day at the academy, the students are expected to be up from bed by 7: 00am and be ready for breakfast 30 minutes later.

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By 8am, they should be leaving for school where they are expected to have breakfast from 8 to 8.30 am and launch at 1pm.

They will have snacks at 5pm and dinner at 8.00 pm. By 10.30pm, they are expected in their rooms.  

Expectedly, the academy is equipped with well staffed clinic and equipment that ensure the good health of the inhabitants.

“We have four buildings (A, B, C and D). Building A is reserved for first-team players”, Marouan explained.

The Raja Casablanca team have two workouts a day. “It allows them to rest during the day and avoid returning to Casablanca and coming back again.

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“Buildings B, C and D are dedicated to young people: cadets, juniors and hopefuls. We have 10 single rooms for the technical and medical staff,” he explained.

One of the large rooms of the complex have a trophy shelf where diplomas and trophies won by Raja Casablanca are displayed.

Indeed, the Raja Club Athletic Academy is a model in Africa.

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.

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International Football

Two Moroccan football players lost at sea, says club official

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Abdellatif Akhrif, IRT player reported missing off the coast of M'diq this Saturday, July 6, 2024. © COPYRIGHT: IRT

Two Moroccan players from top-flight soccer side Ittihad Tanger have been missing at sea since Saturday after strong currents drifted their small yacht, a club official said on Sunday.

They were in a group of five players from the club who went cruising off the northern city of Tangier when strong currents and heavy winds drifted their yacht away as they were swimming in deep waters, club deputy president Anass Mrabet told Reuters.

“Three players have already been rescued on Saturday, while research is still ongoing for the missing Salman Harraq and Abdellatif Akhrif,” he said.

The players did not have buoys on them when they jumped from the small yacht to swim, he said citing recounts by rescued players.

While Akhrif, 24, is already a full member of the squad, Harraq, 18, was about to move up to the senior team this year, Mrabet added.

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Ittihad Tanger have been in the Moroccan top flight since 2015 and won the league title for the first and only time in their history in the 2017-18 season. However, they have struggled in the lower half of the standings in recent years.

-Reuters

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FIFA launches ‘Football Manager’ World Cup with $100,000 in prize money

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FIFA's Chief of Global Football Development and former soccer manager Arsene Wenger speaks during the 74th FIFA Congress at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, in Bangkok, Thailand, May 17, 2024. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

FIFA will host its first ever FIFAe World Cup of Football Manager this year to crown the best virtual manager on the highly-popular video game, world soccer’s governing body said on Thursday.

FIFA is partnering with Sports Interactive, the developers of the game that has sold millions of copies and has also been used by several football clubs to scout players and opponents thanks to its extensive database.

Players will compete for $100,000 in prize money in the final event from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1.

“This competition requires participants to demonstrate a profound understanding of football strategy and tactics,” said former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is the ambassador for the esports event.

“Success demands not only mastery of game mechanics but also in-depth football knowledge, making this format a fascinating blend.”

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FIFA said in the inaugural year of the event, selected member associations will be invited to be represented at the final event.

Member associations from all six confederations are expected to be invited while players can sign up on FIFA’s website.

-Reuters

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Former Italy international Roberto Baggio robbed at gunpoint

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Former Italy international Roberto Baggio was assaulted and robbed at gunpoint at his home in northern Italy while watching his country’s match against Spain in the Euro 2024 tournament on Thursday, local police said.

Burglars broke into Baggio’s house near Vicenza, hit him on the head with a gun butt and locked him and his family in a room while they stole jewellery, watches and cash, daily Il Corriere della Sera reported. It said he suffered a deep wound.

“Luckily, the violence I suffered only resulted in a few stitches, bruises and a lot of fear. Now it is to overcome the fear,” Baggio was quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA.

Baggio, 57, played for clubs including Juventus (JUVE.MI), opens new tab, AC Milan and Inter Milan. He also played 56 times for Italy, scoring 27 goals, and is widely seen as one of his country’s all-time greats.

After the robbery, Baggio, widely known as the “divine ponytail”, was treated at a local hospital where he received stitches for the head wound, Italian media reported.

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Italy lost to Spain 1-0 on Thursday and now must avoid defeat by Croatia to guarantee progression in the tournament.

-Reuters

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