The much-loved Mohammed V Stadium in Casablanca , Morocco, finds itself in the limelight as concerns about its future rise amidst plans to construct a new stadium 40km away from the city. Fans of the two local clubs are apprehensive that the historic venue might close down due to safety reasons.

Officially known as the Mohammed V Stadium, fans endearingly call it the “Donor,” referencing the “Stade d’honneur” (stadium of honour, in French), a name given to it at Morocco’s independence. Launched in 1955 in what was then the outskirts of Casablanca, today the bustling Maarif district, this 45,000-seat structure is an architectural marvel amidst its modern neighbouring buildings.

Its imposing reinforced concrete structure, the work of French architect Achille Dangleterre, is a quintessential example of the Brutalist movement. With strong ties to the city’s two clubs, Raja and Wydad, the stadium is home to at least two heated derbies per season, hailed by specialist press as among the world’s most intense football rivalries. Fans see the stadium as an integral part of Casablanca’s identity and its football culture.

However, the recently confirmed location for the new ‘great stadium of Casablanca’ in Benslimane, approximately 40km from the economic capital, has sparked confusion among fans. Social media quickly buzzed with criticism, questioning the logic of building a new stadium so far from the city.

The planned 93,000-seat project has reopened ongoing debates about the future of Mohammed V Stadium. Abdullah Abaakil, adviser for the Maarif district and city council member for the Unified Socialist Party (PSU), states, “The idea of moving the stadium is not new. But if it ends up closed and handed over to property developers, especially once the new stadium is built, it would be baffling. For the residents of popular neighbourhoods, it’s a source of integration, of which we have few in Casablanca.”

The proposal for a new stadium has been in discussion intermittently since 2008. The recent announcement came as Mohammed V underwent another round of renovations, and following the death of a female fan near the stadium on 29th April while attending a match. Official reports attribute her death to a crush caused by ticketless fans, but videos and testimonies implicate the police’s use of water cannons that day.

Casablanca Events & Animation, the company charged with managing the stadium, has been repeatedly accused of poor handling. After the events of 29th April, the company defended itself by citing the excessive number of spectators and the responsibility of clubs in deciding the number of tickets for sale.

“Matchday is a different day,” confesses Othman, 37, who spent part of his childhood living near the stadium. For residents, the hours before a game follow a set script: the area is cordoned off by the police, car movements are restricted, shops close early. Othman, who has lived in England, states emphatically, “Casablanca fans are no worse than West Ham or Millwall fans who attend their team’s matches in downtown London. The issue isn’t the location, but if a move must happen, a place within Casablanca, such as Central Quarries, should have been chosen. There is ample land available and it would have revitalised the neighbourhood.”

Mohammed V Stadium: A ‘monument’ to be ‘preserved’

So far, no official announcement has been made regarding the future of the Mohammed V Stadium. Its fate hangs in the balance, held hostage by urban planning ambitions and the aspirations of Moroccan football for a modern stadium fitting of a future World Cup host.

In 2016, clashes within the stadium led to the death of two fans. For the next two years, ultra-supporters were banned from the stadium. In 2018, the press was intrigued by the chants echoed in its stands, notably the most famous, F’bladi Dalmouni (“I suffered from injustice in my country”), protesting a lack of freedom.

The Mohammed V Stadium holds a significant place in Casablanca’s urban and football heritage. For many, its location, history, and architecture make it a monument to be preserved at all costs. As the debate about its future continues, what is certain is that whatever decision is made will profoundly affect the lives of local football fans and the city’s identity.

As the country prepares to host the 2030 World Cup, Moroccan authorities face a challenging task in balancing the need for modern football infrastructure with preserving the deep-rooted cultural identity embedded in the nation’s football history.

Image Caption: Mustapha Ennaimi / Flickr

The Saudi Super Cup, also known as The Berain Saudi Super Cup, witnessed an exciting shift in format during its 9th edition in 2022. This annual football competition, held for clubs in the Saudi Arabia football league system, saw a transition from a two-team format to an exhilarating four-team tournament. The alteration included the inclusion of a semi-final round, showcasing the winners and runners-up of the Saudi Professional League and the King Cup. This article delves into the captivating journey of the 2022 Saudi Super Cup, highlighting the triumph of Al-Ittihad, who emerged as the worthy champions after defeating Al-Fayha 2-0 in a fiercely contested final.

The semi-final round

On the 26th of January 2023, football fans across Saudi Arabia eagerly tuned in to witness the semi-final matches of the Saudi Super Cup. The stakes were high as the top-performing teams from the Saudi Professional League and the King Cup fought for a coveted spot in the final. The matches were a true display of skill, determination, and strategic brilliance, captivating spectators with each thrilling moment.

The final showdown

The anticipation reached its peak on the 29th of January 2023 when Al-Ittihad and Al-Fayha took the field in the final battle for the Saudi Super Cup title. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric, with fans filling the stands, exuding an unwavering passion for their respective teams.

Al-Ittihad, a football powerhouse with a storied history, showcased their experience and prowess throughout the tournament. In the final, they displayed exceptional teamwork, tactical astuteness, and clinical finishing that proved to be the deciding factors in securing their first Saudi Super Cup title.

The game commenced with a flurry of attacks from both sides, as Al-Fayha sought to make their mark on the grand stage. However, Al-Ittihad’s solid defense held firm, thwarting their opponents’ advances. It was a testament to their well-drilled backline, which successfully nullified Al-Fayha’s attacking threat.

In the 30th minute, Al-Ittihad’s relentless pressure finally paid off when their striker found the back of the net with a well-placed shot, sending their fans into a frenzy of celebration. The goal injected further momentum into Al-Ittihad’s gameplay, and they continued to dominate possession and create scoring opportunities.

Al-Fayha, refusing to surrender, launched a spirited fightback in the second half. They pushed forward relentlessly, seeking the equaliser that would reignite their hopes. However, Al-Ittihad’s resolute defense held firm, denying their opponents any breakthrough.

As the match reached its climax, Al-Ittihad delivered the final blow, sealing their victory and the Saudi Super Cup title with a second goal in the dying minutes. The roar of triumph from Al-Ittihad’s players and fans reverberated throughout the stadium, marking a historic moment for the club.

The 9th edition of the Saudi Super Cup witnessed an exhilarating transformation in format, elevating the competition to new heights of excitement and intensity. Al-Ittihad’s triumph in the final showcased their remarkable skill, resilience, and commitment to clinch their first-ever Saudi Super Cup title. This memorable tournament will undoubtedly go down in Saudi Arabian football history, leaving fans eagerly anticipating the future editions of this prestigious competition.

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A timeless edifice

Nestled within the pulsating heart of Egypt’s capital, the Cairo International Stadium serves not only as an arena for sporting triumphs but as a grand monument to the indomitable spirit of a nation steeped in antiquity. This iconic venue, which has played host to footballing titans and witnessed athletic prowess of the highest calibre, has evolved over the decades into a nexus of sporting and cultural convergence.

The genesis of a landmark

The vision to construct a behemoth of this stature was conceived in the late 1950s. With Egypt’s star on the rise, the country needed a coliseum befitting its ambitions. Designed by the esteemed German architect Werner March, the stadium broke ground in 1955 and opened its gates to a bedazzled populace in 1960. Its architectural prowess was ahead of its time, a marriage of brutalist aesthetics with the traditional Egyptian elements.

The theatre of dreams and more

While football dominates the headlines, Cairo International Stadium has been a fertile ground for a plethora of events, from athletics to concerts, and political gatherings. Its versatility is a testament to the genius of its design, and its capacity to seat over 70,000 eager spectators makes it an unparalleled venue for any spectacle under the desert sun.

Moments that shaped history

Cairo International Stadium has been the stage for many moments that have reverberated through the annals of history. Among these are the legendary football matches of the African Cup of Nations and the indelible footprints left by the iconic athletes during the All Africa Games. Each goal scored and record shattered has added a thread to the intricate tapestry that constitutes the stadium’s illustrious legacy.

The people’s Coliseum

To the people of Cairo and Egypt at large, this stadium is far more than an assembly of concrete and steel. It is an emblem of national pride, a sanctum where dreams are realised and heroes are born. The roar of the crowd is not just an echo against the cavernous dome but a chorus of a thousand voices, unified in triumph and despair.

Future-proofing a legacy

As the stadium marches through the 21st century, it does so with its gaze firmly on the horizon. Numerous refurbishments and modernisations have ensured that Cairo International Stadium continues to be an enviable venue on the global stage. With state-of-the-art amenities, it harmoniously blends its storied past with the unrelenting march of progress.

An enduring icon

The Cairo International Stadium stands as a testimony to the triumphs of yesteryears and the dreams yet to be fulfilled. It is not just a structure but a living, breathing entity that reflects the soul of a nation. As the sands of time continue to shift, this monumental edifice remains steadfast, a beacon in the heart of Egypt and an eternal reminder of the greatness that has been and that which is yet to come.

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Heralding a new dawn each year on the second Tuesday of February, Qatar National Sports Day is a grandiose spectacle that emphasises the importance of an active lifestyle. This illustrious occasion showcases the sheer determination and unity of the people, transcending the bounds of the physical realm. Qatar, a nation often synonymised with opulence and splendour, gracefully marries tradition and modernity on this triumphant day.

The genesis of a monumental tradition

The decree to celebrate Qatar National Sports Day was promulgated by His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in 2011. This initiative, lauded as ground-breaking, reflected a visionary approach to nurturing a society grounded in health and fitness. The day, nestled in the heart of the calendar, symbolises a nation’s unyielding commitment to the wellness of its denizens.

Celebrations galore: events and activities

Qatar National Sports Day unfurls a tapestry of events and activities that appeals to all age groups and abilities. From the exhilarating dragon boat races in the cerulean waters of Doha’s West Bay Lagoon to the invigorating marathons that snake through the historic Souq Waqif, there’s a smorgasbord of options for every enthusiast.

  • Sporting Challenges and Tournaments: Football, Qatar’s most cherished sport, takes centre stage with myriad tournaments hosted across the country. The iconic Al Bayt Stadium and the shimmering Aspire Zone play host to domestic and international teams who partake in spirited bouts of friendly rivalry.
  • Fitness Regimens and Workshops: Engaging the community in the pursuit of health, numerous fitness centres and sports clubs offer complimentary classes and workshops. Yoga by the picturesque Corniche, or a CrossFit session in the shadows of the imposing skyscrapers of West Bay, the choices are limitless.
  • Traditional Pursuits: Equally significant is the reverence for traditional sports. Camel racing, a sport steeped in Bedouin culture, is showcased in the sprawling Al Shahaniya Camel Racetrack. Additionally, falconry, an age-old pastime, garners admiration and intrigue from both locals and tourists.

Culminating in grandeur: closing ceremonies

The crescendo of this sporting symphony is the closing ceremony, typically held at the Khalifa International Stadium. With an astonishing display of fireworks, musical performances, and a procession to commemorate the athletes, it exemplifies the spirit of togetherness and achievement.

Implications for the broader community

While Qatar National Sports Day is celebrated with aplomb and revelry, its essence resonates throughout the year. Schools, corporations, and government institutions actively promote physical education and wellness programmes. Moreover, this remarkable initiative has burgeoned into a blueprint for other Middle Eastern nations aspiring to integrate sports into their cultural fabric.

A legacy for posterity

Qatar’s commitment to sports has been notably evident with the nation hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the upcoming 2030 Asian Games. Qatar National Sports Day symbolises the burgeoning legacy of a nation poised at the cusp of athletic excellence and societal well-being.

Qatar National Sports Day is not merely an event, but a manifestation of a nation’s dreams and aspirations. It stands as an indomitable reminder of the role of sports in forging bonds, building character, and nurturing the holistic development of society. In a world increasingly fragmented, the camaraderie and unity displayed on this resplendent day carry profound significance.

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One of the world’s most well-known soccer players Cristiano Ronaldo Saudi Arabia where he was greeted with great fanfare, including children wearing the yellow and blue jerseys of his new club. Saudi Arabia, an oil-rich country, has successfully attracted the five-time Ballon d’Or winner to play for its Al Nassr FC team on a two-year contract, as part of its ongoing effort to achieve its sports-related goals, even at a high cost.

According to Saudi state-run media, Ronaldo will be the highest-paid soccer player in the world, earning an estimated $200 million per year with Al Nassr. The club’s Instagram page gained over 5.3 million new followers after the signing, and its official website crashed due to a surge in traffic. The hashtag #HalaRonaldo – Hello Ronaldo in Arabic – was trending for days on Twitter throughout the Middle East. Analysts suggest that Ronaldo’s signing is part of a broader strategy by Saudi Arabia to diversify its revenue streams and establish itself as a major player in international sports.

Cristiano Ronaldo Saudi Arabia achievements?

Cristiano Ronaldo has made his mark in the Saudi Pro League by scoring four goals for Al-Nassr in a match against Al-Wehda, achieving a remarkable personal milestone. The 38-year-old had only scored one goal in his first three competitive appearances for the club, which he joined in December, but he showed his class in the match, scoring in the 21st, 40th, 53rd, and 61st minutes. He reached and surpassed a significant milestone of scoring 500 career league goals during the match.

Ronaldo’s first goal was a powerful left-footed finish across the goalkeeper, and he showed his poacher’s instincts to score his second, racing in-behind to latch onto a through-ball and finish under Abdulquddus Atiah. He made no mistake from the penalty spot to score his third, and his fourth came just after the hour mark. He reached the milestone of 503 league goals when the goalkeeper could only paw his tame shot back into his path, and he slid the ball into the empty net. Ronaldo’s goals helped Al-Nassr secure a much-needed victory as they push for another league title.

Ronaldo’s 503 career league goals include three goals in the Primeira Liga for Sporting Lisbon, 84 goals in the Premier League during his first stint at Manchester United, and 311 goals in 292 La Liga games for Real Madrid. He was almost as prolific for Juventus, scoring 81 Serie A goals in 98 appearances for the Turin giants before returning to Manchester United in 2021. Ronaldo has scored five goals in his first three Saudi Pro League appearances, and his overall tally of 503 goals places him behind only Pele, Romario, Josef Bican, and Ferenc Puskas on the list of all-time league goal scorers.

Increased tourism?

While no official figures have been released, Cristiano Ronaldo’s signing with Al Nassr is expected to have a positive impact on Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry. As one of the most famous football stars in the world, Ronaldo’s presence in the kingdom is likely to draw the attention of soccer fans from around the globe. Additionally, the significant media coverage and social media buzz surrounding his signing and his subsequent performance with the team can help showcase Saudi Arabia’s rich culture, tourist attractions, and vibrant cities to the world. Overall, Ronaldo’s decision to play for Al Nassr could significantly boost the country’s profile as a destination for sports tourism and help promote its national agenda of economic diversification through tourism.

Image Credit: AP photo/Amr Nabil