BY KUNLE SOLAJA
Barely 24 hours after being announced as a co-host of the 2030 FIFA World Cup, Morocco has already named six stadiums for use at the landmark edition that marks 100 years since the World Cup began.
President of the Royal Morocco Football Federation (FRMF) Faouzi Lakjaa named the stadiums spread across Casablanca, Tangier, Rabat, Fez, Marrakech and Agadir.
The prompt naming is apparently to illustrate the preparedness of the kingdom, even with one edition of the World Cup still ahead.
Most of the stadiums are time honoured and have been kept in good condition by the state run company, Société nationale de réalisation et de gestion des stades (SONARGES) which in English translates to National stadium construction and management company.
In Casablanca, the stadium to the used is Stade Mohammed V. It is a multi-purpose arena and the oldest stadium in Morocco. It is the home ground for local rivals, Wydad and Raja Casablanca.
In 1997, the stadium set a record of attendance of 110,000 during the Casablanca derby and a match between the Moroccan national team against Ghana. . The same record attendance was repeated during Morocco’s match against Argentina in 2004.
Tangier boast of Ibn Batouta Stadium, one of those used at the 2022 Club World Cup earlier this year. Nigeria also played against Liberia at the arena in one of the qualifying duels for the 2022 World Cup. It is named after a Moroccan scholar and explorer.
Another Centennial World Cup city is Marrakech. The Stade de Marrakech
has a unique architectural design. Situated some 11 km from the city centre. It is the first stadium in the world to be both rectangular and also incorporate an elliptical running track.
Designed by Italian firm, Gregotti Associati International, it is adorned in brick red colour outwardly to have an harmony with the ancient city that is noted for its trademark of red walls. Generally, Marrakech is nicknamed “Red City” as most buildings are constructed in red sandstone .
The stadium outwardly cut the picture of an ancient fort and having four towers at the corners of the unique arena.
Each tower carries a set of halogen lamps that illuminate the natural lush green grass and the main bowl. This may not be a coincidence. As the director of the stadium, Rachid Naifi explained, the shape refers to fortifications on one hand and to local architecture in general.
Another 2030 host city is Fez. It is the second largest city in Morocco and the northern inland part of the country has the Fez Stadium.
It is in this arena that a goal-scorer that qualified an African team into the semi-final of the World Cup is honoured.
Youssel En-Nesyri who leapt an incredible height of 2.78 metres to score Morocco’s winner against Portugal at the last World Cup has a huge photograph that captured the goal episode, adorning the Fez Stadium.
The stadium’s seats are in green and red depicting the national colours of Morocco.
En-Nesyri’s incredible jump cum goal set an eye-catching record as it reportedly outperformed Ronaldo’s famous 2.56-metre jump during a game with his former club Juventus in the 2019-2020 football season.
Both El-Nesyri and Ronaldo are of the same height. El-Nesyri is a native of the city of Fez. His astounding jump above Portugal’s goalkeeper Diogo Costa and defender, Ruben Dias culminating in a header into the net was described as highest jump in football goal scoring episodes.
His native Fez in Morocco has honoured him. According to Anass Erghnouni, the director of the Fez stadium, El-Nesyri started his football career as a youth player at Maghreb Association Sportve de Fes (MAS Fes) before moving to Mohammed VI Football Academy in Rabat.
More significant is perhaps the life-sized photograph that King Mohammed VI took with the Atlas Lions upon return from Qatar 2022 World Cup.
The use of photographs that capture Morocco’s passion for football may not be a surprise. Erghnouni, the director of the stadium and top official at Morocco’s stadium management company, SONARGES explained that Fez is one of the biggest cultural centres of Morocco and habouring over 12 centuries of history.
The simplicity of the stadium’s design is to showcase the city’s old century of culture, explained Erghnouni. The pitch of the stadium has lush green natural grass.
The resident clubs at the 45,000 capacity stadium are Maghreb Association Sportive de Fès (MAS Fes) and Wydad Athletic de Fès.
Though in existence since1997, it was officially commissioned 10 years later.
It habours four locker rooms for football teams, making it very good for double-header matches for which Africa Cup of Nations’ group games adopted.
It means that while a game is on, the two other teams who are to take on the pitch later have their own locker rooms.
Four huge slanting flood light pillars each carry 50 halogen lamps to ensure brilliant spectacle both for spectators and television viewers.
Agadir is another World Cup designated city. It was at this city that Nigeria’s Super Eagles had their biggest win when they beat Sao Tome & Principe 10-0 last year in one of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifying series.
The Grand Stade d’Agadir has a uniqueness as a place where the Atlas Mountains blend with sports facilities.
Occasionally, structural designers attempt a blend of nature with constructions. This is very apparent in the design of Grand Stade d’Agadir.
The stadium is lying at the foot of the Atlas Mountain from where the Morocco national team derived their nickname, Atlas Lions.
Hitcham Allouli, the stadium’s director told Sports Village Square that the 45,480 capacity Grand Stade Adrar Agadir was designed to form part of Morocco’s bid for the 2010 World Cup.
Early construction works kicked off in 2003, but works progressed slowly and stalled when South Africa got awarded the World Cup instead of Morocco.
Construction works resumed in 2007 and was completed in October 2013 and hosted some matches of that year’s edition of the FIFA Club World Cup.
Located on the eastern edge of the Agadir at the foot of the Atlas mountain range, the stadium is about five kilometres from Agadir’s centre and beachfront.
The arena’s director said that the stadium is estimated to have been constructed at cost of one million euro.
The design was by a Moroccan architect, Sad Benkirane in conjunction with a foreign firm, Gregotti Associati International.
Outwardly, the stadium in colour and in shape, is designed to have a perfect harmony with the surrounding hills as outside walls have sloped elevations.
Hitcham Allouli informed that the arena, with natural grass, has a media tribune that can hold 288 journalists as well as 12 commentary boxes.
The three-tiered grand stand has three VVIP zones and each had capacity for 250 guests. This is in addition to 12 lounges that can host 300 guests.
Rabat, the green city and seat of government has the popular Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium.