Morocco failed to go past the group stage at the ongoing Total U17 Africa Cup of Nations Tanzania 2019, but head coach Jamal Sellami leaves the tournament with his heads up. The Atlas Cubs were a delight to watch at the tournament as the twinkle twinkle little stars wowed fans with their breathtaking performances. Sadly, they managed just a point from three games.
Sellami, who guided Morocco to the ultimate at the Total African Nations Championship (CHAN) on home soil in 2018, is optimistic that tournament will serve a good platform for his charges to develop for the future.
Below are excerpts of his interview.
CAFOnline: What are your remarks on the performance of your team?
Jamal Sellami: Our main target was to qualify to FIFA U17 in Brazil later this year, sadly we couldn't achieve it. The first aim was to win the opening game against Senegal, which would have helped our cause. Also we had number of players who were unavailable due tro injuries. All in all I am very happy with my team because they played good football and kept trying.
Was it a challenge being in the same group with giants such as Cameroon, Guinea and Senegal?
It wasn't a challenge; rather it was good for the players. If they have ambitions of representing Morocco at the U-20 level and upwards, they need to adapt to playing against such teams. Senegal has good players with qualities and they build their attacks from defence. Cameroon play long balls to their strikers, they have good wingers too. Guinea has the skills of Senegal and power of Cameroon.
What lessons do you take back?
The U-17 AFCON is a good tournament but I think we need to look at it in a broader perspective. I suggest to the authorities to consider similar tournaments for other age categories like U-15 and U-13. If we want Africa to win the FIFA World Cup, we need to start preparing these talents at the early stage.
The next edition of the U17 AFCON will be hosted in Morocco. How will you be preparing for that?
In collaboration with the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF), we have already started recruiting players for the next edition. They have selected players that meet the age bracket, who were recently crowned champions in a regional championship in Algeria. We hope that we will have a good squad when the time comes.
I am happy to recruit these boys with skills and talents. I have good technical staffs too. We are giving our experiences, knowledge and our education values to these youngsters so they can perform well.
The FRMF has been very supportive and motivated the players even for our abortive campaign in Tanzania. The support from other stakeholders too has been tremendous.
As a coach used to senior teams, how do you compare coaching with youths?
I like coaching youngsters. I started at a young age and I always do that whenever I get the opportunity. In Morocco, I have a reputation of giving chance to young players. There are many Moroccan players plying their trade elsewhere that I groomed and gave them chances.
Also I played in all youth categories, from the age of 12 until I reached the senior team so I want to live with my experience. When you help these youth to achieve their dreams, you are not just helping them but their friends and families.