It is a mistake that hasn’t ever truly been absolutely defined. “He didn’t expect it and didn’t understand what had happened,” Achraf Hakimi’s brother Nabil recalled. “They had a game near Bilbao and when they got there they told him he couldn’t play.”
Fifa’s choice to prohibit Hakimi in September 2016 as a part of its investigation into whether or not Real Madrid had illegally signed underage avid gamers from in another country definitely got here as a surprise to everybody, now not least the teenage full-back who had simply made his first-team debut for Zinedine. Zidane’s aspect on their pre-season excursion.
“I think Fifa was only checking rare names from immigrants more than where the boy was born, which is what happened with him,” stated Rabie Takassa, who works as a scout in Spain for the Moroccan Football Federation, in an interview in 2017. “They saw a Moroccan name and he was punished without deserving it. Real Madrid and his family gave all the papers required showing he was born in a hospital in Madrid, that he studied here, that he spent all his life growing up here. It was a complicated time for him because he didn’t know when Fifa would give him the green light to play again.”
Along with Zidane’s sons Enzo and Luca, Hakimi was back a few weeks later in Real’s reserve side and made his senior debut for Morocco the following month in a 4–0 win against Canada. He had represented the Atlas Lions at junior level and Spain’s attempt to persuade the attacking right-back who grew up in Getafe – a suburb of Madrid – to accept a call-up for their under-19s a year before had fallen on deaf ears.
“I discovered him in 2010 and I’ve been keeping an eye on him since then,” Takasa stated. “We’ve spoken with him regularly and the federation’s technical director traveled to Madrid to see him. We’ve outlined our project, which is very competitive, and I don’t think he’s ever had any doubts.”
Hakimi will win his 58th cap, at the age of 24, in Morocco’s historic showdown against Spain in the last 16 of the World Cup on Tuesday. It will be a poignant moment for the Paris Saint-Germain player, who celebrated the famous victory over Belgium in Group F by kissing his mother in the stands and will now attempt to go one better than the 1986 side that lost to West Germany at this stages. “I love you Mum,” Hakimi tweeted after the fit, accompanied through footage of them embracing.
Saida Mou, Hakimi’s mom, used to wash properties within the Spanish capital, and her husband was once a boulevard dealer. “We come from a modest family that struggled to earn a living,” Hakimi stated in an interview when he joined Borussia Dortmund on mortgage from Madrid in 2018. “Today I fight every day for them. They sacrificed themselves for me. They deprived my brothers of many things for me to succeed.”
At the last count, there were almost 900,000 Moroccans living in Spain, making them the largest foreign community legally settled in the country. Hakimi is by no means the only member of Walid Regragui’s cosmopolitan squad who was born overseas.
Only 12 – the fewest of any nation in Qatar – were born in the country they are representing in an illustration of Morocco’s large diaspora. The winger Sofiane Boufal and Romain Saïss, the captain, were, like Regragui, born and raised in France; the midfield generals Sofyan Amrabat and Hakim Ziyech grew up in the Netherlands; and several of the squad were born in Belgium, such as Genk’s emerging talent Bilal El Khannous. The reserve goalkeeper Munir was born in Melilla, an autonomous city of Spain on the north African mainland.
Even with Ziyech’s return after he announced his international retirement following a disagreement with former coach Vahid Halilhodzic, Hakimi remains the team’s star. Having become the first Moroccan to play for Real Madrid, in 2017, his brilliant two-year spell in the Bundesliga earned a move to Internazionale, where he thrived under Antonio Conte and won the scudetto, Hakimi turned down a move to Chelsea to join PSG for an initial €60m last year and has developed a strong understanding with Lionel Messi. But his qualities are no less appreciated by Regragui, particularly after the assist for Morocco’s second goal in the final group match against Canada, when his brilliant pass from his own half set up Youssef En-Nesyri to score.
“Look at Hakimi – he played injured till the very last minute; all Moroccans should praise him every day,” Regragui said after Morocco sealed top spot in Group F.
The thigh injury he sustained in the opening match against Croatia is being carefully managed by Morocco’s medical staff but there is little doubt Hakimi will be ready to face the country of his birth.
“Here in Paris you play for the team of the city, but it’s not the same to play with the team of your country,” Hakimi stated in an interview sooner than the World Cup with Vogue Arabia that still featured his spouse, the actor Hiba Abouk. , who’s easiest identified for her function in El Príncipe, a TV drama set in Ceuta, any other Spanish self sufficient town on Morocco’s north coast.
“Millions and tens of millions of persons are going to strengthen you since you play for them. It’s such as you play to your grandfather and their grandfathers. You play for numerous other people, numerous Moroccans.”