By Hassan Benmehdi
After the Atlas Lions’ surprise elimination in the first round of the 2012 African Cup of Nations (CAN), Morocco fans are calling for national football officials to face the music.
A study day was held in Parliament on Wednesday (February 8th) for detailed discussion of the problems facing Moroccan football and remedies for the future. The Chamber of Representatives held the debate under the theme, “Moroccan sport: reality and prospects”.
Sports Minister Mohamed Ouzzine stressed that nationally, sport was suffering from a structural malaise. At the same time, he acknowledged that while Moroccan sport has managed some achievements, that was due simply to the talent of young sportsmen and women, rather than any particular strategy.
Ouzzine revealed the findings of a survey of the 45 national sports federations, which showed that there were significant problems in management, governance, financial management, internal democracy, transparency, and a range of other failings which have had a negative impact on progress in Moroccan sport.
MPs attending the meeting called on the president of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF), Ali Fassi Fihri, to provide an explanation for the national team’s defeat and early exit from CAN 2012.
They also insisted that the federation president reveal to the Moroccan people how much the Atlas Lions’ manager, Belgian Eric Gerets, was being paid, as well the terms of his contract with the federation.
Justice and Development Party MP Abdelaziz Ammari said that every Moroccan has the right to wonder about the cause of the national football team’s catastrophic results.
Istiqlal MP Noureddine Madiane said that the decline of the national sport programmes was due to a lack of communication. Expressing his amazement at the salary paid to Gerets, he called for urgent, realistic and achievable reforms to save Moroccan sport.
Speaking to an audience of MPs, Ali Fassi Fihri replied that he was not at liberty, nor obliged, to make public the salary paid to the national coach, going on to invite MPs concerned about the terms of Eric Gerets’ contract to go along to his office to find out.
However, he said the results achieved by the national side were not all that catastrophic, arguing that this round of CAN was just part of a long-term improvement programme for Moroccan football. “We have no fewer than 14 talented young players with a promising future,” Fassi Fihri said.
Moroccan soccer fans now hope that the football problem at the national level can be resolved sensibly, without indulging in a blame game or using sport for political purposes.
“It would be sensible now to step back for a moment and think about the future, because we have some important dates coming up, and we cannot afford to make mistakes, particularly with CAN 2013, the 2014 World Cup and CAN 2015 taking place here in Morocco,” Rachid, a young Casablancan trader, told Magharebia.
In the light of a report into the situation facing Moroccan sport, the government led by Abdelilah Benkirane stressed the importance of promoting a sport policy based on good governance and the agreement of programme contracts with the sports federations.
The communications minister and government spokesman, Mustapha El Khalfi, explained that the objective would be achieved through an in-depth analysis of the situation facing national sport and the introduction of mechanisms to monitor and evaluate it.