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Morocco WC to change mentality of African coaches



AL RAYYAN, Qatar – As Morocco attempt to become the first African nation to reach the World Cup semifinals, coach Walid Regragui is hoping the Atlas Lions’ success will also lead to more opportunities in Europe for coaches of Arab descent.

“This question is probably best to ask to the European clubs: ‘Why don’t they hire Arab coaches?’ Regragui told a news conference, a day before his team take on Portugal in the quarterfinals.

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“Maybe it’s a cultural question, maybe it’s a mentality aspect. Today, I think it’s impossible that Manchester City or Barcelona will bring an Arab coach. They don’t even think about it, as if we’re not worthy. As if we we’re ignorant in football or we’re incapable of such a task.

“However, there are moments in history that make people change their mind and it’s upon us the Arab and African cultures to show that we are ready.”

With a win against Portugal on Saturday, Morocco would advance to play the winner of England vs. France.

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Since his 13-year playing career ended in 2011 — which was spent predominantly in France — Regragui’s coaching career has been limited to jobs in Morocco and Qatar. Over that time, Regragui said, other opportunities didn’t arise for due to a perceived lack of experience.

“It’s impossible for him, let’s look for somebody else,” said Regragui, offering previous evaluations of him as a coaching candidate. “Seven games [as Morocco’s coach] and I’m in the quarterfinals.

“Explain that to me. Explain this miracle. Experience? It doesn’t matter. It’s skills. It doesn’t matter your background, religiously speaking or culturally speaking or where you from. Skills are the only measure.”

Regragui, 46, took over as the Morocco coach just over three months ago, after leading Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca to the African Champions League title in May.

He replaced Bosnian Vahid Halihodzic, who led the team through qualification but was dismissed, in part, after clashing with star players Hakim Ziyech and Noussair Mazraoui — both players have started all four games in Qatar.

At the World Cup, Regragui has been praised for installing an effective system in which he’s asked a lot of his players on the defensive end. Through four games, Morocco have kept three clean sheets (against Belgium, Croatia and Spain) and the only goal it allowed was an own goal against Canada.

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“The challenge is to do as well as we did in the previous games. And if we do get through. Then we would’ve practically beaten all of the best sides,” Regragui said.

“We want to show that Africa deserves to be here. Morocco deserves to be here. That football is global and that we have good players. We have the federation behind us. We have a whole people behind us, and in fact, the whole continent behind us and have the Arab world as well.”

With Morocco representing both African and Arab nations, a run to the semifinals would be stand as a historic accomplishment with far-reaching impact.

“I want to change the mentality,” Regragui said. “A lot of African coaches can actually coach in Europe and in great clubs.”



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