Morocco combines its FIFA Talent Development Scheme to schools football programme, paving the way for other countries to follow suit

It’s a scheme in which has consultants taking part along with experts,coaches from around the world, former players, former coaches andformer directors of football

By Thandisizwe Mgudlwa

In conjunction with the development of facilities and as part of thetalent detection process, the  Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) isalso in schools, trying to close the net as tight as it can and makesure that no potentially gifted individuals slip through it.“We’ve embarked on a sports studies programme with the Ministry ofNational Education to create school structures across the country thatcan accommodate boys and girls who play football all the time,offering them a timetable adapted to every level of schooling,” saysFouzi Lekjaa, President of FRMF.And based on an innovative study on talent development launched twoyears ago, the TDS ties in seamlessly with FIFA President GianniInfantino’s 2020-2023 Vision: Making Football Truly Global. As part ofthis second phase and in line with the study’s results, nationalassociations can focus on specific aspects of their development needs.“By way of example, the idea of football development at school hastaken root among CAF member associations,” explained FIFA technicaldirector Steven Martens. “It’s a great idea but a huge challenge too.It involves all the associations and all the countries organising aregular schools competition that could perhaps lead into internationalcompetitions. The most important thing, though, is local activity andgiving young people the chance to meet up and play regularly.”The FIFA Talent Development Scheme (TDS) workshop was recently held in Morocco.Moreover, the Moroccan Football Association (FRMF) is making greatstrides in developing the country’s young talent, pointing the way forothers to follow; FRMF president points to three key elements:facilities, talent and qualified personnel.With five FIFA World Cup appearances to its name and a sixth to comeat Qatar 2022, a thriving domestic scene and a clutch of clubsregarded as continental heavyweights, and a solid reputation forproducing dependable defenders, creative midfielders and stylishforwards, it is no exaggeration to say that Morocco is a hotbed oftalent.It was in this football-loving country that FIFA held a June workshopdevoted to the Talent Development Scheme (TDS), which was launched inFebruary 2020 by Arsene Wenger, FIFA Chief of Global Development.More than 50 development specialists and regional technical advisersattended the Mohammed VI Football Academy to discuss talentdevelopment strategies, share best practice, and prepare the groundfor the rest of FIFA’s member associations to support the scheme.FRMF is devoting all its energy to these goals, as its president,Fouzi Lekjaa, made clear in his opening speech at the seminar: “Thedevelopment of football in Morocco is founded on a triangular approachthat should form the basis of the development of any system:facilities, talent and qualified personnel. Along with my colleaguesat the FRMF, I am convinced that those three fundamentals have to bein place for the process to develop as it should.”The FRMF is delivering on its promises, focusing first of all onfacilities both nationally and locally. A high point in itsdevelopment plans came with the 2019 opening of the Mohammed VIFootball Academy, which covers 30 hectares and boasts the latestfacilities and equipment – all of it compliant with FIFA standards.The jewel in the crown of Moroccan football, it is one of the biggestand highest-achieving sports academies in the world.In the meantime, the Moroccan authorities have also been developinglocal facilities, as Lekjaa revealed: “We have a team overseeingdevelopment across the country’s 12 regions, starting with talentdetection, with young players attending club academies. That’s whywe’ve made such a big effort to make sure clubs have their ownacademies. The regional academies are the same as the nationalacademy, just smaller. The best players from the regions go to thecentre of excellence, which has coaching and medical staff who workwith young players spotted in grassroots football and take them up tothe next level. That’s the way our development cycle is designed. Itstarts with talent detection at grassroots level, with that talentthen channeling into the clubs, the regional academy and on to thenational centre of excellence.”“Morocco is a young society and our young people have raw talent,”continued the FRMF president, who also said that that the Moroccanclimate is ideal for playing football. “We are trying to delivermaximum added value in footballing terms so that we can take that rawtalent at the age of ten and allow them to express it and raise theirgame. The idea is to prepare them for life as professional players andfor them to kick on and join clubs.”The talent is there and the facilities too. All that is needed arequalified people to ensure that potential is harnessed to the full.“If the game is going to develop, we need to have professional staffwith the ability to deliver,” added Lekjaa. “That’s the vital linkthat we’re working on and investing so much of our energy in, all witha view to closing the gap and giving everyone the opportunity toenhance their skills with training delivered by the National Academyat both amateur and professional level.”As a result, Morocco is leading the way with the Talent DevelopmentScheme, setting an example for others to follow, as FIFA technicaldirector Steven Martens confirmed. “The Moroccan FA is very importantfor FIFA and football in Africa, not just because of its facilitiesbut because of its programmes, the president’s vision and the qualityof its training.”Convinced that the country’s investments will pay off, Martens added:“I know you are anxious for things to happen and are expecting bigresults but there is no question that the work Morocco is doing nowwill yield results in the long term. Those results might even come inthe medium term. After all, you staged the CAF Women’s Africa Cup ofNations this year, you have qualified for the 2022 World Cup, and youryouth teams are starting to put some excellent performances together.”

Impressed by the welcome they received and the facilities, theworkshop’s participants had an ideal setting in which to explore thethemes raised. ”As a high-performance specialist involved in the TDSproject, I’d like to congratulate the Moroccan FA on its amazingfacilities. The association and its president had the vision to buildthis infrastructure with the aim of developing talented youngplayers,” commented former Portugal striker Nuno Gomes, whileex-France defender Mikael Silvestre hailed the quality of the nationalacademy: “It is outstanding. It’s lush and green, the pitches areready and the working environment is first class.”“It’s a huge honour that FIFA has chosen Morocco to organise thisworkshop,” said FRMF Director of Training Fathi Djamal. “Morocco wasselected because of its many facilities and major logisticalresources. It was selected because of the excellent reputation itenjoys around the world for organisation. Our country always led theway in that respect, as a sort of football laboratory, and we can doso again.”According to FIFA, the workshop gave Martens and his team the perfectopportunity to explain the importance of the TDS and FIFA’sdevelopment programmes. “The TDS is a scheme designed for everyone. Itseeks to give every talented player a chance,” he said. “It’s a schemein which we have consultants taking part along with experts, coachesfrom around the world, former players, former coaches and formerdirectors of football. We are here to train the leaders of today andto prepare them. Some 154 countries have already signed up for thescheme and it is vital that we help each and every one of them attheir own level.”“Thanks to the scheme, we are starting to give a chance to everytalented player because we believe that to be in the interests ofevery national association,” he added. “Every association wants theirnational team to do well, but there’s a lot more to footballdevelopment than just a path to the top. You have to make sure playersstay in the game and are excited by it.”In Morocco, that excitement is spreading across the nation, organisers attest.

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