FIFA Men's World Cup
Morocco coach: 'Impossible' top European clubs would hire Arab manager
FIFA Men's World Cup

Morocco coach: 'Impossible' top European clubs would hire Arab manager

Updated Dec. 9, 2022 11:11 a.m. ET

AL RAYYAN, Qatar — Morocco coach Walid Regragui is hoping that his team’s success at the 2022 World Cup opens the door for coaches from Africa and the Arab world at the highest levels of European club soccer.  

The North African country upset Spain in the round of 16, eliminating one of the title favorites in a penalty kick shootout to become just the fourth nation from the continent — and the first mostly Arab country — to reach the last eight of the competition.  

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Morocco’s Cinderella story at Qatar 2022 continues Saturday, when the Atlas Lions take on Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in the quarterfinals (10 a.m. ET, FOX and the FOX Sports app). With a win, they would become the only African side to progress to the semis.  

"There are moments in history that make people that change their mind, and it's upon us, the Arab and African cultures, to show that we are ready," Regragui said. He also wants to show that coaches from outside the traditional soccer hotbeds of Europe and South American can manage top club teams. Players from sub-Saharan Africa have starred in some of the world’s top domestic circuits for decades. More recently, players from North Africa, such as Egypt’s Mohamed Salah of Liverpool and Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City, have become household names for fans of the sport across the globe.


But few African and/or Arab coaches have gotten opportunities with Champions League contenders. "I think it's impossible that Manchester City or Barcelona will bring an Arab coach," Regragui said. "They don't even think about it, as if we're not worthy, as if we are ignorant in football, or we're incapable of such a task." 

At the international level at least, things seem to be changing. Each of the five African teams at Qatar 2022 were managed by African coaches — the first time that’s happened. When Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) reached the quarterfinals, they were led by Europeans.

"When you have five African coaches, you have more chances that if the results are there, these coaches will be seen," Regragui said, adding that soccer officials in Morocco were skeptical about his ability at first, and that many of the country’s leading sports journalists preferred that the federation opt for an experienced foreign coach instead. 

Former defender Regragui played in France and Spain during his career but only coached clubs in Morocco and Qatar before landing the national team job earlier this year. More than half of the coaches in the Atlas Lions’ history were born outside the country.  

"Experience doesn't matter," Regragui said. "It's skills. It doesn't matter your background, religion, culture, where you’re from. Skills are the only measure." 

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Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.


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