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Morocco on the Women’s Football Atlas / CAN 2022 / Morocco / SOFOOT.com

The course of the Moroccan national team created a surprise during this Women’s AFCON 2022. On and off the field, the Atlas Lionesses, beaten only in the final by South Africa (1-2), thwarted the odds by breaking down a few barriers and prejudices at home. The Cherifian kingdom fell in love with the players of Reynald Pedros: a national craze which took on an unexpected societal dimension.


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“My boys behaved like girls! » Walid Regragui’s joke after his team’s victory in the semi-finals of the Throne Cup last week was not one! In the race for an unprecedented treble (cup-championship-Champions League), the coach of the men’s team of Wydad Casablanca thus marked his gratitude towards the course of the Lionesses of the Atlas during this CAN. Indeed, in this month of July, an unexpected fervor appeared between the Moroccan people and their women’s football team. However, the bet was not necessarily won at the start: no Arab team had reached the final of the women’s CAN since its creation in 1991 (Nigeria winning 11 trophies out of 13) and the team trained by Reynald Pedros (since December 2020) did not really seem able to disturb the established order.

“This is the first time we’ve heard of women’s football here in Morocco”

So much so that in the first round, to encourage the national team, we asked for female supporters from all sides. Abdelhamid Ouriarhi, coach in the remote province of Berkane in the east of the country, testifies: “The federation chartered six buses for us and asked us to bring back as many girls as possible, whether licensed or not, to attend the first match. All dressed in red and green, the girls were thrilled! Back home, these teenagers were only waiting for one thing: to be able to go back to see a match in Rabat (more than 7 hours drive, editor’s note) ! » They will experience the rest of the competition from home, but with a new perspective and contagious passion. During this first round crowned by three Moroccan victories, the excitement around this selection actually caught on like a flash in the pan. The players Fatima, Rosella and Khadija have become first names that resonate in the ears of Moroccans and animate conversations, with a mixture of national pride and recognition of women’s sport.

“We were fully aware of our role during this CAN at home. We wanted to show the parents of every girl here that it is possible to succeed through sport. » Ghizlane Chebbak, best player of the tournament

This selection is then carried by a very large audience and benefits from completely new media coverage: unprecedented audiences, special sets during the JT, billboards in the streets, radio and TV spots… The players occupy the daily lives of Moroccans and in a few days become symbols of sporting success for an entire country. And especially for Moroccan youth. Myriam and Rabia, 11 years old and 7 years old, young apprentice footballers in tap dancing in front of their house, confirm this: “It’s the first time we’ve heard of women’s football here in Morocco, it’s a source of pride! » A few meters away, at the local “hanout” (grocery store), their mother, El Yakoute, national team jersey on her shoulders, goes in the same direction: “The media treatment around this female selection is totally new, so we imagine that the fallout will go beyond the framework of sport. Everyone has been talking about the course of the Moroccan women for two weeks, it’s the same as if it were the boys. And then for us, these players are a bit our daughters, Moroccans from here or abroad, we identify with them! »

50,000 spectators for the final, a new record

This is exactly what the best player of the tournament, the captain of the Red and Green, Ghizlane Chebbak confirms: “We were fully aware of our role during this CAN at home. We had to honor Moroccan women’s football to show the parents of each girl here that it is possible to succeed through sport, but also to be adored by the public. So we did everything we could to show that it was achievable. This CAN is a first step that we absolutely must consolidate tomorrow. »

It is therefore not the defeat in the final last Saturday against the Banyana Banyana of South Africa (1-2), in a Moulay Abdallah stadium which was sold out two hours before kick-off (record attendance for a women’s match in Africa: 50,000 spectators), which will diminish this feeling of success and conquest. Qualified for the first time in their history for the 2023 World Cup, the Atlas Lionesses have taken a giant step in a few weeks. The feat achieved by the Moroccans in beating the Nigerian ogre in the semi-finals and their overall journey is undoubtedly worth much more than a thousand words. “Fatima, Rosella, Khadija…” occupied the headlines and lively discussions in cafés at the start of the summer. These players, symbols of the explosion of Moroccan women’s football during this CAN, are now new models of success hitherto unpublished.

By Benjamin Laguerre, in Rabat

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