• Morocco have only qualified twice for the CAF Africa Women Cup of Nations, in 1998 and 2000
  • Morocco have never competed at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™
  • The Moroccans hope to participate at Ghana 2018

After having played at two CAF Africa Women Cup of Nations tournaments in a row, at Nigeria 1998 and South Africa 2000, Morocco have since managed to miss out on all the rest. They were eliminated by Mali in 2016, after which those responsible for women’s football in the North African country made qualifying for continental and global competitions a top priority.

There is now a plan in place at the Moroccan Football Association to get the nation back on the right track. “We set up teams for all age categories,” Laila Youssfi, head of women’s football, told FIFA.com.

“Since the arrival of President Fouzi Lekjaa and the appointment of Nasser Larguet as national technical director, interest in women’s football has grown. We formed a U-17 team, which played in the qualifiers for Jordan 2016, and a U-20 team. We have an adult league in Morocco, but we don't yet have one for the U-17 and U-20 levels.”

Establishing youth teams without the existence of national leagues was not a straightforward task for those in charge of the women’s scene. “For the U-17 team, we held trials in a number of cities,” explained Youssfi. “Right now, our prime objective is to launch a U-17 league next season. Both the U-17 and U-20 players currently perform alongside the seniors, and our goal is for them to have their own league, where they could make even more progress.”

Invaluable support
The Moroccan FA has not just provided administrative support; it has also contributed vital financial aid. “The FA has backed the clubs financially so that the players receive a monthly salary and bonuses,” said Youssfi. “Some clubs have offered the girls employment in administrative roles, which has improved their day-to-day lives and placed them under good conditions.”

She continued: “In Morocco, girls are generally encouraged to play football. Some families live off the monthly wage earned by their daughters, which can come to between €300 and €400 per month, without taking into account win bonuses, which range from €30 to €50.

“And our teams are well organised, like Laayoune and Widad. There are also successful local football associations like Afaq Khenifra and Ayn Atiq, who have given a lot to the women’s game in Morocco.”

The Moroccan FA had to overcome various obstacles to implement its programme. “We encountered difficulties in certain regions of Morocco, where there is no physical education in schools and where clubs have had to bring in girls from other regions,” said Youssfi.

“And some big clubs, like Raja Casablanca or Khenifra, have women’s teams that are separate from the men’s team, from an administrative point of view. We’re working towards having women’s sides come under the same umbrella. It doesn’t make much sense for a women’s team to have the same name as a men’s team but not fall under the authority of the same general management.”

Focus on Ghana 2018
Like all African teams, the Moroccans are looking forward to the qualifying campaign for the 2018 Cup of Nations, which provides berths to the 2019 Women’s World Cup for the top three finishers. They will prepare for the test under the guidance of experienced coach Karim Bencherifa.

“For the seniors, there’ll be two national training camps in May: one for the pre-selection of players and one for the final selection,” he explained. “The overall goal is to be ready for the international challenges to come, such as the Cup of Nations qualifiers and the World Cup.”

He went on: “As well as the existence of a national adult league and a national U-16 cup tournament, and some other initiatives, we have also started to hold preparatory training camps for the U-17, U-20 and senior national women’s sides.”

Bencherifa offered up a positive outlook on the future of women’s football in Morocco. “There’s a great willingness on the part of the FA and the technical director to develop the women’s game in Morocco via a number of interesting projects. That kind of hard work will eventually pay dividends.”