Valencia’s Double Gives Ecuador Half-Time Lead Against Qatar

A FIFA World Cup trophy replica is pictured on the pitch as fireworks go off ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group A football match between Qatar and Ecuador at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, north of Doha on November 20, 2022. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)


The World Cup kicked off with host nation Qatar facing Ecuador on Sunday as the month-long football showpiece finally gets underway after a tortuous 12-year build-up dogged by off-field controversies.

Foreign government officials, VIPs, and celebrities were in the crowd as the first World Cup staged in the Arab world opened at the Bedouin-tent-inspired Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, 50 kilometres (31 miles) outside of Doha.

Ecuador supporters cheer ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group A football match between Qatar and Ecuador at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, north of Doha on November 20, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)
Ecuador supporters cheer ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group A football match between Qatar and Ecuador at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, north of Doha on November 20, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)


The venue is one of an array of brand-new stadiums built for the tournament, which has cost Qatar an estimated $200 billion.

Refresh this page for live updates…

17:50: It’s half-time in Qatar with the hosts two-nil down. Can they stage a comeback?

17:45: Five minutes of extra time have been added.

17:31: Valencia scores a header to double the lead for Ecuador.

17:16: Enner Valencia scores the first World Cup goal in Qatar after converting from the spot.

17:15: Saeed Al Sheeb becomes the first player to be booked in the tournament after he brought down Valencia in the penalty area.

17:05:  Enner Valencia heads in a goal but VAR cancels it for an offside against the forward.

17:00: The opening game of the competition kicks off between Qatar and Ecuador.


Adidas, Morocco Resolve Row Over Algeria Football Jerseys

Morocco’s culture ministry has accused Adidas of appropriating Moroccan culture in its new jerseys for Algeria’s football team.



German sportswear giant Adidas said Friday a row with Morocco over a design on a football top for arch-rivals Algeria had been resolved, and that it regretted the controversy.

Last month, Rabat asked Adidas to axe the new tops, accusing it of appropriating “Moroccan cultural heritage” due to the use of a pattern known as “zellige”, common in Moroccan ceramic mosaics.

A lawyer acting for the culture ministry demanded the withdrawal within two weeks of the jerseys which he claimed was “inspired” by the colourful Moroccan designs.

Adidas reported Friday a “positive resolution” to the dispute following talks with the ministry, and the tops, worn by the Algerian team for pre-match warm-ups, will not be withdrawn.

“The design was inspired indeed by the zellige mosaics pattern, and was at no time intended to offend anyone,” said the company in a statement.

“We would like to express our deep respect to the people and craftsmen of Morocco and regret the controversy surrounding this case.”

Mourad Elajouti, the lawyer acting for the culture ministry, welcomed the news, saying the case highlighted “the importance of defending our cultural heritage and the ancestral know-how of Moroccan craftmanship”.

But there were signs of fresh problems for Adidas — local media in Algeria reported the country’s football federation is not satisfied with the sports giant, and is thinking of terminating its contract with them.

An Adidas spokesman said he would not comment on press speculation.

On September 23, Adidas released on Twitter a photo of the new 2022-2023 season kit for the Algerian national team it said was “inspired by culture and history”.

The design, according to Adidas, drew its inspiration from the Mechouar Palace in Tlemcen, in northwestern Algeria.

Ties between Morocco, which has qualified for the World Cup finals that kick off in Qatar next month, and Algeria, which has not, have long been shaky.

The neighbours are at odds over the disputed territory of Western Sahara, where the Algiers-backed Polisario Front is seeking independence from Rabat’s rule.

Algeria severed ties in August 2021, accusing Rabat of “hostile acts”, a move which Morocco said was “completely unjustified”.

Morocco Bus Crash Leaves 23 Dead, Scores Injured

Rescuers and security forces gather at the scene of a bus crash on a motorway in Khouribga province, east of Morocco’s economic capital Casablanca, on August 17, 2022.  (Photo by AFP)


A bus crash east of Morocco’s economic capital Casablanca on Wednesday left 23 people dead, a health official said, marking one of the deadliest such accidents in recent years.

The bus overturned on a bend of a motorway in Khouribga province in the morning, local authorities said, giving an initial toll of 15 dead.

Regional health director Rochdi Kaddar later revised the death toll up to 23, telling AFP that another 36 people were injured in the crash.

The bus was travelling between Casablanca and the rural region of Ait Attab, near the town of Beni Mellal at the foot of the High Atlas mountains.

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The injured were taken to a hospital in Khouribga and an investigation has been opened into the accident.

Road accidents, often deadly, are relatively frequent in Morocco and other North African countries.

An average of 3,500 deaths and 12,000 injuries have been recorded annually in Morocco, according to the National Road Safety Agency, with an average of 10 deaths per day.


Huge Europe-Morocco Migration Begins After COVID-19 Hiatus

Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences.
Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences.


Morocco on Sunday begins welcoming an influx of its citizens living in Europe after the pandemic led to a halt in what has been called one of the world’s biggest cross-continental migrations.

The last such effort in the summer of 2019 saw 3.3 million people and more than three quarters of a million vehicles cross the Gibraltar Strait.

The North African kingdom is just 14 kilometres (nine miles) from the coast of Spain, which has announced it will also put in place special measures for Moroccans from June 15 for two months.

Spain’s government has called the seasonal migration “one of the biggest flows of people across continents in such a small time”.

Resuming large-scale cross-strait travel comes not only after an easing of the pandemic threat but also following a mending of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

The year-long diplomatic dispute had extended border closures originally put in place because of Covid-19, but maritime traffic resumed in April.

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“Operation Marhaba (Welcome) for Moroccans living overseas begins on June 5,” said a statement late Saturday from the Mohammed V Solidarity Foundation which organises the effort.

More than 1,000 people including doctors, social workers and volunteers have signed up to help people arriving at ports and airports.

Most will come by boat from Spain.

As well as at Moroccan ports, helpers will be stationed in the Spanish ports of Almeria and Algeciras, Marseille in France and Italy’s Genoa, among others.

The traffic goes in both directions, as many Moroccans also head to Spanish coastal resorts for their holidays.

Spain, Morocco To Re-Open Enclave Land Borders On Tuesday

File photo: Commuters wearing face masks sit on a train at the Atocha Station in Madrid on April 13, 2020 . JAVIER SORIANO / AFP.


Madrid and Rabat have agreed to re-open the land borders between Morocco and two Spanish enclaves on Tuesday, Spain’s interior minister said Thursday.

The move helps draw a line under a major diplomatic standoff on the back of coronavirus restrictions that together closed the crossings for two years.

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said the two countries had agreed to open the land borders with Ceuta and Melilla gradually from May 17.

Crossings will be initially limited to residents of Europe’s passport-free Schengen area and their family members, and will then be expanded to cross-border workers after May 31, he told reporters in Madrid.

Ceuta and Melilla have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa.

The local economies on both sides of the borders depend on the crossing of people and goods.

The borders became the focus of a major dispute last year when Madrid allowed the leader of a Western Saharan independence movement to be treated for Covid-19 in a Spanish hospital.

Ten thousand migrants surged across the Moroccan border into Ceuta as local border forces looked the other way, in what was widely seen as a punitive gesture by Rabat.

In March, Spain moved to end the diplomatic crisis with Morocco by removing its decades-long stance of neutrality and backing the kingdom’s autonomy plan for the Western Sahara, which Rabat insists must remain under its sovereignty.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visited King Mohammed VI in early April.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares had announced on Wednesday that the borders would reopen “in the coming days” without specifying a date.

WCQ: Tissoudali’s Brilliant Goal Gives Morocco Advantage Over DR Congo



Tarik Tissoudali scored a brilliant equaliser as Morocco moved closer to a sixth World Cup appearance by drawing 1-1 with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kinshasa on Friday.  

A move that began with a superb slide tackle by Moroccan defender Romain Saiss ended with Tissoudali rifling the ball into the net on 76 minutes in the first leg of their play-off.

Yoane Wissa had given  DR Congo a 12th-minute lead, sprinting down the wing, cutting inside, and unleashing a shot from just outside the box that brushed Saiss and beat goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

READ ALSO: Italy Miss Second Straight World Cup After Shock Defeat To North Macedonia

With away goals counting double if teams finish level on aggregate, a 0-0 draw in Casablanca on Tuesday would take Morocco to the World Cup in Qatar.

Morocco were unsettled after falling behind and Cedric Bakambu and Dieumerci Mbokani wasted chances to put the Congolese further ahead lead on a gloomy and windy evening.

The visitors squandered an early second-half chance to equalise when Ryan Mmaee blazed a penalty over the crossbar.

DR Congo were reduced to 10 men with five minutes remaining when Ngonda Muzinga was sent off after being yellow-carded twice. He will miss the return match.

Later on Friday, Cameroon, Mali, Egypt and Ghana have home advantage over Algeria, Tunisia, Senegal, and Nigeria respectively in other first legs.


Morocco Drivers Strike Over Fuel Price Spike

Moroccan truck and taxi drivers are observing a three-day strike in protest at spiraling fuel costs, a union said Tuesday, as oil prices spike over Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Around three quarters of drivers are observing the strike, said Mounir Benazouz of the SNPTR truckers’ union.

Four other unions have also joined the action which ends Wednesday.

“We are calling on the government to put a ceiling on fuel prices and the profit margins of distributors, because the situation is becoming more and more critical,” Benazouz said.

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He added that the strike could be extended unless the government responds.

The transport ministry did not immediately reply to AFP’s request for comment.

The government of Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch has for weeks been facing growing unrest over mounting living costs, with price hikes on fuel and other essential goods sparking demonstrations across the North African kingdom.

Inflation, spurred by rising global commodities prices, topped three percent year-on-year in January, prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Moroccan farmers are also suffering the effects of a long drought which has battered a sector that contributes about 14 percent of gross domestic product.


Super Falcons Beat Cote D’Ivoire To Qualify For 2022 Africa Women’s Cup Of Nations

File Photo of the Super Falcons.


Nigeria have qualified for this year’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations holding in Morocco after the Super Falcons produced a brave performance to defeat the Lady Elephants of Cote D’Ivoire 1-0 in Abidjan.

The result secured an aggregate 3-0 win for the nine-time African champions following Wednesday’s win.  The hosts threw all they had in the return leg encounter at the Stade Robert Champroux but met an unshakable Nigerian defence and an inspired goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie who was outstanding.

Coach Randy Waldrum made two changes to the starting line-up from the first leg, bringing in midfielder Regina Otu and forward Francisca Ordega. The lively Ordega thought she had given Nigeria the lead halfway into the first period but the Nigerien referee ruled it out.

READ ALSO: [World Cup Play-Off] CAF Fixes New Dates For Super Eagles Clash Against Ghana

In the 34th minute, Nigerien referee Zouwaira Souley awarded a penalty to the homers after judging that Ashleigh Plumptre had tripped an Ivorian striker in the Nigerian area. Goalkeeper Nnadozie saved the shot, and the contact from the same player off the rebound went into the side-netting.

The Super Falcons dug their feet into the ground in the second half, refusing to give the Lady Elephants any leeway. Plumptre, Captain Onome Ebi, Osinachi Ohale, and Michelle Alozie all held their ground as the Elephants increased their onslaughts.

A minute to the end, Esther Okoronkwo, winning only her second cap for Nigeria, scored the back-breaker that confirmed a 3-0 aggregate win for the Super Falcons. Victory and qualification for Morocco 2022 was sweet revenge over the Ivorian ladies who stopped the Falcons from qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Ex-Moroccan Minister Jailed After ‘Adultery’ Video

Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences.
Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian, and European cultural influences.


A Moroccan former rights minister who became an outspoken government critic was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday on a string of charges, his lawyer said.

Mohamed Ziane, 79, had gone on trial last year after he accused the kingdom’s security services of faking a video purporting to show him in a compromising situation with a married woman in a hotel room.

The video caused a scandal, but Ziane accused the head of the police and Morocco’s domestic security forces, Abdelatif Hammouchi, of faking the footage.

The interior ministry in January last year filed a complaint accusing him of criminally “disseminating false accusations”.

READ ALSO: Moroccans Protest Against High Prices For Basic Goods

A Rabat court on Wednesday “sentenced Mr Ziane to three years in prison and a fine of 5,000 dirhams (about $530)”, lawyer Amal Khalfi told AFP.

But she added that “we don’t yet know the details of the verdict. We don’t know which charges were upheld”.

Ziane remains at liberty pending an appeal, she said.

The former minister had told AFP in December that he faced a total of 11 charges, including “contempt of public officials and the judiciary”, defamation, adultery, and sexual harassment.

He said the charges against him were political.  Ziane was a prominent government lawyer in the early 1990s and human rights minister between 1995 and 1996.

But in recent years, he has become a prominent critic of authorities, particularly the security services.


Moroccans Protest Against High Prices For Basic Goods

Moroccans raise placards as they gather in front of parliament in the capital Rabat to protest against rising prices, on February 20, 2022. STR / AFP


Protests broke out in several Moroccan cities on Sunday as people rallied against rising prices and to commemorate the eleventh anniversary of demonstrations that called for reform. 

In the capital Rabat, dozens of protesters decried the high cost of basic goods and shouted slogans harking back to the “February 20 Movement”, an AFP correspondent said.

The pro-reform and anti-corruption movement was born out of the Arab Spring uprisings that rocked the Middle East in 2011.

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A Moroccan man raises a placard as he takes part in a protest against rising prices, in front of the parliament in the capital Rabat, on February 20, 2022. STR / AFP


Dozens also rallied in Casablanca and Tangiers, according to videos posted on social media.

Drought has hurt the country’s economy and Moroccans are also feeling the pinch from high fuel prices.

Some 3.8 billion dirhams (over $400 million) is needed for flour subsidies alone in 2022, according to an economy ministry official.


Morocco Reopens Airspace After 2-Month COVID-19 Shutdown

Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences.
Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences.


Morocco reopened its airspace on Monday in a bid to breathe life into its crisis-hit tourism sector, two months after it cancelled commercial flights over coronavirus fears.

The North African kingdom’s latest move was welcomed by tourism businesses who have suffered two lost years due to the pandemic, as well as by Moroccans stranded abroad.

Passengers heading to the kingdom will still need to show proof of vaccination against the Covid-19 illness and a negative PCR test within the past 48 hours, the government said in a statement.

On arrival, they will undergo further rapid tests and some will be chosen at random for another PCR test, it said.

It also warned tourists of “the possibility of an additional test at their hotel or place of residence 48 hours after their entry into the country”, with positive cases obliged to self-isolate.

READ ALSO: Funeral Starts For Moroccan Boy Rayan Who Died In Well

Morocco’s vital tourism sector has been battered by the pandemic and ensuing travel restrictions, with a 71 percent drop in arrivals in 2021 compared to 2019 and some eight billion euros in losses.

Authorities have vowed to launch a promotional campaign for “destination Morocco” and say they are working with airlines to relaunch the sector.

Rabat has also laid out a more than 180-million-euro campaign to keep jobs and firms in the sector on life support — but many say the funds are not enough.

Morocco Buries Little Rayan Who Died Trapped In Well

Moroccan security forces form a human chain to contain the crowd as the ambulance carrying the body of five-year-old Rayan Oram who fell into a well shaft on February 1, leaves the scene in the remote village of Ighrane in the rural northern province of Chefchaouen, late on February 5, 2022.  (Photo by Fadel SENNA / AFP)


Moroccans on Monday attended the funeral of Rayan, a five-year-old boy who spent five days trapped down a well, sparking a vast rescue operation that gripped the world but ended in tragedy.

The boy had fallen down a narrow, 32-metre (100-foot) dry well last Tuesday, sparking a complex earth-moving operation to try to reach him without triggering a landslide.

Well-wishers had flooded social media with messages of sympathy and prayers that he would be brought out alive, but their hopes were dashed.

On Saturday night, crowds had cheered as rescue workers cleared away the final handfuls of soil to reach him, after the marathon digging operation in the village of Ighrane in northern Morocco’s impoverished Rif mountains.

But the joy turned to grief when the royal cabinet of the North African nation announced that the boy was dead.

King Mohammed VI called the parents to voice his condolences.

The child’s body was taken to a military hospital in the capital Rabat, accompanied by his parents.

On Monday it was transported to the Douar Zaouia cemetary near his village, where hundreds of mourners attended his funeral, AFP journalists said.

– Nation in shock –

Rayan’s father Khaled Aourram said he had been repairing the well when his son fell in, close to the family home.

The shaft, just 45 centimetres (18 inches) across, was too narrow for Rayan to be reached directly, and widening it was deemed too risky — so earth movers dug a wide slope into the hill.

Rescue crews, using bulldozers and front-end loaders, excavated the surrounding red earth down to the level where the boy was trapped, before drill teams carefully dug a horizontal tunnel to reach him from the side to avoid causing a landslide.

Vast crowds came to offer their support, singing and praying to encourage the rescuers who worked around the clock.

But the boy’s death left Moroccans in shock.

Mourad Fazoui in Rabat mourned what he said was a disaster. “May his soul rest in peace and may God open the gates of heaven to him,” the salesman said.

The Arabic daily newspaper Assabah criticised the digging of unauthorised wells, saying many were used to irrigate cannabis widely grown in Morocco’s north.

Social media across the Arab world were flooded with messages of support, grief, and praise for rescue workers.

“He has brought people together around him,” one Twitter user said.

But one deplored a “dystopian world” where “Arab nations are moved” by the Morocco rescue operation for the child while vast numbers of infants die in conflict or famine in Yemen and Syria.