Magharebia (Washington DC)

Morocco Sports Minister Under Pressure

"We need to take action to start laying the foundations, restore the former glory and win new titles" Moroccan Sports Minister Mohamed Ouzzine said.

Siham Ali contributed to this report for Magharebia in Rabat - 22/02/13

A day after Moroccan legislators grilled him about an early Atlas Lions' exit from the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN), Youth and Sports Minister Mohamed Ouzzine unloaded a shot on goal against the country's football federation.

As part of a plan to reform Moroccan sports and pull it out of an abyss, the budget of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) will be cut in half to 110m dirhams (9.88m euros), Ouzzine said Tuesday (February 19th).

"Such measures are necessary to lay the foundations of good governance, without which no strategy can be relevant and effective," Ouzzine said Tuesday (February 19th).

"I have not promised the people of Morocco immediate results ... relief is far from assured in a number of disciplines," he added.

On Monday, Ouzzine was in the hot seat on Monday as a parliamentary inquiry commission questioned him in particular about Morocco's elimination from CAN.

His summoning before MPs marked the second time since September that Mohamed Ouzzine faced a firing line of questions in Parliament about his leadership and whether public money was being wasted on sports programmes.

MPs bashed the quality of the football team's play and criticised coach Rachid Taoussi. They also criticised the FRMF leadership and its perceived failure, blaming the federation for making a mess of Moroccan football.

MP Abdelmalek Afriat stressed the need to devise and implement a clear strategy for giving the programme a much needed boost after a string of failures.

"We don't want to dwell on the problem, which resulted in the Moroccan team's early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations. Unfortunately, Moroccan football has been in crisis for the past decade," Afriat said.

For his part, parliamentarian Mohamed Addal called for Taoussi's dismissal and railed against public money being spent on the national football team without any results.

The minister shares Parliament's frustrations on the federation's failings. Ouzzine even raised the possibility of dissolving the FRMF and setting up a technical committee to run the sport during the interim.

"Failures within the sports sector are due to the lack of governance, which has a lot to do with results. It is for that reason that we are working hard on governance to improve the situation," the embattled minister told MPs.

"We found that 15 out of 45 sports federations were not being run legitimately. That number has now been reduced to three. Today we need to take action to start laying the foundations, restore the former glory and win new titles," he said.

Ouzzine stressed that the ministry had long worked without a clear set of objectives.

"I've always been clear with the Moroccan people, and have avoided promising results. Today, action must concentrate not on results but on preparing the way for the next generation. It will take 15 years for that work to yield tangible results," Ouzzine said.

As for public opinion, Moroccans have mixed views about the handling of their country's sports programmes. Some have called for sparing no expense to boost the nation's sports profile, while others say that the money could go into programmes that could generate jobs for young people.

"It is necessary to put money into sports so as to develop Morocco's sporting talent and young prospects," student Ouafaa Chergal said.

"Many young people find themselves without support and have to muddle through on their own," she told Magharebia. "Those are the ones we need to help if we want to get good results."

Bank clerk Mourad Balimi belongs to the other camp.

"Morocco would be better off re-investing money from its sports budget into job-stimulating programmes," he told Magharebia.

"We need to prioritise. Jobs for young people must take priority over a sports sector which has seen failure after failure," he added.

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