Raja Athletic Club’s fairytale run in the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup has a jewel for a souvenir, writes Mthokozisi Dube from Casablanca.
Between 11 and 21 December 2013, the Green Eagles gracefully wrote a fairy story with an impressive run in the Club World Cup.
RCA cruised past Auckland City, FC Monterrey and Atlético Mineiro to secure a ticket to the final in unprecedented fashion.
The FCWC final is a stage never reached by an African team. In fact, the furthest African representatives have gone since then was the semi-final.
Of course, Bayern Munich were the eventual 2013 winner [2-0]. Nonetheless, the Moroccans came out with their heads held high to the applause of their fans.
HOW KING MOHAMED VI PAID HOMAGE TO RAJA CASABLANCA
Rightly so, King Mohamed VI paid homage to them during a ceremony at the royal palace.
Omar Khyari, the advisor to the president of Royal Moroccan Football Federation [FRMF], reveals the gift handed over to Mohamed Boudrika. Boudrika was at the helm as president of the club at the time.
“After Raja Casablanca did well in the FIFA Club World Cup, the King [May God Assist Him] gave them a piece of land. The land extended over an area of 7.5 hectares in the district of Ain Jemâa, in Bouskoura,” Khyari told FARPost on the sidelines of a recent tour.
At the time, the desolate piece of land was worth 3.75 million Dirhams [R6.5 million]. The gift fell in line with the vision of Morocco as far as football is concerned. The North African country is on a drive to build football infrastructure across the country as part of its development plan for the game.
The vision of the King was to see the club build a football academy. Its fulfilment would require a good US$2 million [now R35 million]. The Urban Agency of Casablanca okayed the academy’s construction.
WHEN RAJA TRAINED AT THE ACADEMY
In early 2016, Raja signed a partnership agreement, and the massive project was entrusted to the Moroccan construction company Urbagec.
The construction, however, did not come with no challenges, as a financial crisis delayed its launch.
In March 2021, the work was completed. Exactly a year later, Raja’s first team trained in the Academy for the first time.
On September 22, 2022, the academy was officially opened in the presence of guests, including FRMF boss Fouzi Lekjaa and the Wali of the Casablanca-Settat region, Said Ahmidouch.
Located about 20km from Casablanca in Bouskoura, the facilities of the Academy are subdivided into three poles: the sports pole, the educational pole and the administrative pole.
These buildings are interconnected with bridges with windows that overlook the courtyard.
The Academy has two large football pitches, the first with natural grass and the second with a synthetic lawn.
It also includes four mini synthetic pitches for mini-football. The sports centre has, among other things, a weight room, a rehabilitation room, a medical centre and a restaurant. Two additional fields are also planned.
“There are 50 rooms in this academy – each room takes two players – the first team of Raja is based here. You have four youth teams,” Khyari explained.
It also houses the Raja CA training centre to provide its young footballers with accommodation, support school and a high-level sports training program.
The centre is one of the first to comply with international standards in the Maghreb and the first football school in Morocco to adopt the “sport-study” concept.
Academy stars, who are still in school, attend a school some 5km from the centre. However, starting next year, teachers will be coming to the centre to give lessons.
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