This Saturday night (23 p.m.), it is from the substitutes' bench at the large stadium in Tangier that Achraf Hakimi should start the friendly match between Morocco and Brazil. Still plagued by muscle pain in his thigh that he has been carrying since the last World Cup, the right-back is not able to start this gala match awaited by a whole nation eager to celebrate its heroes, semi-finalists of the World Cup.
But Hakimi's possible absence from Walid Regragui's starting XI did not dampen Sofiane's enthusiasm. This young Morocco fan and happy holder of a ticket for the match intends to honour his favourite player for his reunion in the mild spring of Tangier, even if he does not set foot on the pitch against Brazil.
"He made us dream during the World Cup and he deserves a crazy welcome," said the 20-year-old fan in the quiet streets of the city. Even if he only plays one minute, we will thank him for everything he has done over the past month and the way he has pulled the team up. This guy is more than a star, he's our hero, he's our pride. »
Number 1 in jersey sales, fresco in Casablanca...
This view is shared by millions of Moroccans. For the past three months and the historic journey made in Qatar, a real Hakimi mania has been sweeping the whole country, from Casablanca to Tangier via Marrakech. Although he has always enjoyed a high popularity rating at home, the Atlas Lions international (61 caps, 24 years old) has definitely won the hearts of Moroccans who have set him up as an example.
"He has always been a star in Morocco because he is someone who is open, close to the public and who has values. But today he has become a role model for everyone here," said Karim Skalli Cherif, president of PSG Fan Club Morocco, who came from Casablanca to watch the Morocco-Brazil match. Before, parents would tell their children: focus on school and continue your education as long as possible. Now it's more like: come on, do everything you can to play like Achraf Hakimi. Everyone wants to play like him and look like him! Recently, a viral video was circulating in Morocco where a coach of a small amateur club explained that all his young players now wanted to play right-back, the position of Achraf Hakimi.
In sports shops, the defender's jerseys are snapped up and are at the top of the sales ranking, ahead of those of Hakim Ziyech, the other star of Moroccan football but with less media impact than his partner. The face of a local telephone operator whose commercial is played on Moroccan television, Achraf Hakimi was recently treated to her mural on the wall of a building in Casablanca.
Idolatry taken to the extreme
The relationship between the player and his country has never seemed so strong while the recent news of the defender has however revolved, in recent weeks, much more around his indictment in France for rape and facts dating back to the end of February, than his performances on the field. But here, nearly 2000,<> kilometers from Paris, not many people believe in Achraf Hakimi's guilt and the player's lawyers are easily found in the streets of Tangier. "It's phony, no one believes it," says Brahim, who is in his fifties. The young woman came in good faith, she went up to his house to have a drink, he didn't force her. The singer Saad Lamjarred committed rape. While Ashraf is kind, lovely, he got married at a very young age. He has an irreproachable lifestyle. He is likely to leave PSG because of this affair. The French state really needs to intervene to stop this. »
An idolatry – questionable and sometimes pushed to the extreme – which finds its explanations in the pride that Moroccans have in being able to claim this symbol of their country's success on the international level. At 24 years old, Achraf Hakimi has put Morocco back on the chessboard of world football through his performances in the biggest clubs in the world (Real, Dortmund, Inter Milan, PSG) and with the Atlas Lions, a selection for which he has been dedicated for 17 years.
"The Moroccan people are a football people. Everyone identifies with Achraf through the prism of progression and perseverance," says Patrice Beaumelle, former assistant to Hervé Renard in Morocco. He wanted to do it, and he did. It is a great pride that a Moroccan player has played in the biggest clubs in the world and that he succeeds in this way. Morocco is happy for him and to see where his progress has taken him. He is someone who has a real attachment to Morocco. If you have to play a qualifying match in the depths of Africa, you can be sure that he will be there. We all want him to be our friend, our brother, our son-in-law, our cousin. Morocco, for its part, wants above all to proclaim its gratitude to him this Saturday evening, three months after having written the most beautiful page in its football history.