Former star Mustapha Hadji knows all about it – playing where your heart is and not where your zip code is Playing for your family, your heritage and your pride, and for the colors of the country you has been embedded in you instead of the country that has adapted you. It certainly helps that you play for a country that gives you the opportunity to perform instead of a country that you have absolutely no chance representing, but still, it comes down to matters of the heart.
Hadji was born in Morocco but his family moved when he was little to Alsace-Lorraine in France. Hadji, who joined AS Nancy as a youngster, played for France Under-21 but afterwards was the first player who chose to play for his homeland of Morocco, a decision he has no regrets for. His distinguished career includes Sporting Lisbon, Deportivo La Corunia, Coventry city, Aston Villa and Espanyol, among others.
Hadji was the man of the hour two decades ago. In 1994 FIFA World Cup USA, he played all 3 matches in his country's 3 losses in group stage. Four years later, he scored a goal in a 2-2 draw with Norway, played in a 0-3 loss to Brazil and in the 3-0 win over Scotland, but that wasn't enough to help the team advance to the knockout round.
Current Morocco national team has other players like him: Medhi Benatia of Juventus, Sofiane Boufal of Southampton, Younes Belhanda of Galatasaray and Real Madrid's up and coming Achraf Hakimi. The team's roster also includes Faycal Fair of Getafe, Hakim Ziyech of Ajax and Amine Harit of Schalke 04.
That group is formidable enough to carry the national team to present day success. maybe they can recreate that magic moment of Mexico 1986.
In that tournament, Morocco's group included England, Portugal and Poland. The first match against Poland ended in a 0-0 draw, as was the second against England. In the third match Morocco exploded, beating Portugal 3-1 and advancing to the knockout round, where it took a Lothar Matthaus free kick 2 minutes from time to give West Germany a victory.
Morocco also qualified for the 1970 World Cup Mexico and couldn't get out of the group stage.
The Lions of the Atlas play their home games in 45,480 seat Stade Adrar in Agadir and in 45,240 seat Stade de Marrakech.
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