6 June 2014

Morocco: Sport As Bulwark Against Extremism

Rabat — As part of an effort to expand opportunities for Moroccan youth, four ministers on Wednesday (June 4th) agreed to boost the country's amateur football infrastructure.

Under the three-year, 135-million euro deal, 11 new regional training centres and four football academies will be created.

The agreement signed with new FRMF chief Faouzi Lekjaalso also calls for upgrading 90 stadiums with the newest generation of synthetic turf.

Investment in youth-related issues will be given high priority, Mohamed Ouzzine, minister for youth and sport, told lawmakers earlier this week.

Sport is an ideal way to encourage education in civic values and citizenship and to preach the message of non-violence, he explained. Conscious of this fact, the ministry has set up a number of sports and social centres in partnership with local authorities.

Ouzzine called on elected representatives to seek out partnerships so that land could be made available and targets for the construction of local sports and social centres could be met.

"The ministry is prepared to look at all proposals, provided that local partners also do their part to strengthen co-operation," he commented.

Lawmakers from the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM) called for rural areas not to be left out under this scheme, as they suffer from a lack of appropriately qualified human resources and sports facilities, in spite of the importance of sport in society.

The government must double its efforts to invest in local sport, which is a bulwark against violence, antisocial behaviour and even extremism, sociologist Hicham Chmichi said. Young people should not become victims of a sporting and cultural vacuum.

"On the contrary, there must a huge range of sporting activities available, because sport teaches discipline and moral values. A young person who has realised his potential will not fall so easily into the hands of the obscurantists," he said.

Work realised over recent years to develop local sports facilities still falls short of people's aspirations, he said, because children and young people in working class districts still struggle to find places where they can enjoy their hobbies.

Sporting and cultural facilities must become a priority in the urban development process, political analyst Saida Barhoumi agreed.

"For a long time, development plans have failed to take this basic fact into consideration, so much so that some districts are simply blocks of concrete with absolutely no areas set aside for young people," she said. "We should fix the situation, because we need to invest in the education and wellbeing of our youth."

Young people too complain that local sports and social centres are thin on the ground and cannot satisfy the urgent demand.

"Most districts have few areas set aside for people to do sport," 18-year-old Anas Chouaïbi told Magharebia. "In Temara for example, my friends and I sometimes have to play football in the street because we have no other option, even if it means getting in the way of the traffic," he explained.

Young people have aspirations for a better future and hope to see local facilities being developed, both for culture and for sport, agreed Zakaria Gaabaoui, 19.

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