African champions Morocco are ready to continue making history at June’s International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Blind Football World Championships in Madrid, Spain, after becoming the first African national team to compete at a Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil, in 2016.
Here are five things you should know about the Moroccan team.
• It was formed in 2007 and their first international competition was at the inaugural African Championships in 2014. They beat Senegal in the two-game tournament to win the first ever continental title and become the first African country to qualify for the 2014 World Championships in Tokyo, Japan.
• Morocco went on to finish 12th at the 2014 Worlds, but they bounced back in 2015 by lifting the African Championships for the second time and subsequently becoming the first African country to compete in the sport at a Paralympic Games.
• They ended in eighth place. Morocco were the first blind football team to score a goal at Rio 2016 through Abderrazak Hattab in the opening game against Paralympic and world champions Brazil. Brazil went on to win the game 3-1, but Morocco still claimed one point in the group-stage after drawing against then-European champions Turkey 1-1.
• At the 2017 African Championships in Cape Verde, Morocco won all their group stage matches against Mali, Egypt and Cape Verde. They then defeated Mali 8-1 in the final to become three-time continental champions and book their place for this year’s World Championships.
• Watch out for Morocco’s deadly goal scorer Hattab, who is ferocious in the penalty box with his trademark right foot. He scored a total of 16 goals at last year’s African Championships to win ‘Top Goal Scorer’ and ‘Player of the Tournament’ awards.
The 2018 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Blind Football World Championships will be held in Madrid, Spain, from 7-17 June, and will feature 16 of the world’s best teams. As well as the title on offer, the competition is also an important step on the road to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.