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Morocco football pillar Fouzi Lekjaa eyes FIFA Council seat

Published on: 26 January 2021

His first steps in soccer began as president of the club RS Berkane, a city of 100,000 inhabitants, which was then vegetating in the amateur division (3rd Moroccan division).  He revolutionized the club through a three-pronged vision: the improvement of infrastructure for the A team and regional mass soccer, the implementation of efficient governance with professional management, and finally the implementation of sustainable financing.

Thus, the RS Berkane will move in a few years from a modest 3rd division club to a major 1st division club which is fighting for the title, which regularly participates in continental competitions (two CAF Cup finals including one won last year against FC Pyramids), and which is now part of the top 10 African clubs according to the latest CAF ranking. RSB also has today one of the best training centers in the country.

In 2014, Fouzi Lekjaa became President of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation.

During his mandate, he set up an ambitious sports policy based on three pillars.

The first is the development of infrastructures. Fouzi Lekjaa said in an interview with the journalist Alain Foka "we have more than 200 synthetic turf to standards, we have about twenty stadiums with natural grass and lighting to standards, we are at a dozen training centers of clubs that meet all the requirements, we have five regional centers, and we ran all this with the Mohammed VI Football Complex, one of the best centers in the world that meets all standards".

 The second pillar concerns the governance of the clubs, which has been greatly improved. Thus, the clubs are to become public limited companies and are placed under the supervision of the National Control and Management Directorate. In return, the FRMF provides each first division club with an annual grant of approximately 600,000 euros. Clubs participating in continental competitions receive financial assistance from the federation for travel and accommodation.

 Finally, the FRMF has also focused on training young players who are likely to join professional clubs. It also encourages sports studies at the level of clubs and regional centers. Fouzi Lekjaa told Alain Foka in an interview that, "sport study is a necessity. The girl or boy who plays soccer is given the opportunity to continue his or her studies. Even when he or she is not a good student, he or she is converted to vocational training to learn a trade. The young people are therefore armed with a diploma to be able to integrate another field of activity".

Under the leadership of Fouzi Lekjaa, Moroccan clubs won several continental titles (Champions League 2017 for Wydad, CAF Cup 2018 for Raja, CAF Cup 2020 for Berkane and the 2017 and 2018 editions of the CAF Super Cup). In 2020, the four Moroccan teams involved in the Champions League and the CAF Cup achieved a perfect record, qualifying all for the semi-finals, which is a unique historical performance in Africa.

The results of the national team improved significantly under the mandate of Fouzi Lekjaa: while Morocco had not made it through the first round of the CAN since 2004, it qualified for the ¼ finals in 2017 and passed the second round in 2019. In addition, Morocco managed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, 20 years after its last participation.

Morocco also won the CHAN 2018 and the CAN Futsal 2020, both competitions were held at home. The U20 national team managed to qualify for the CAN U20 to be held in Mauritania, which had not happened for 15 years.

It is under the impulse of Fouzi Lekjaa that women's soccer is developing in Morocco. Thus, a National League of Women's Football was set up and shortly afterwards an ambitious "Marshall Plan for Women's Football" was presented. The budget for women's soccer was multiplied by 6 to reach 5.8 million euros. The 2020/2021 season is the first professional edition of the national women's first and second division championship, which is a major step forward for Moroccan women's soccer. Players have guaranteed minimum wages and a mandatory professional contract, while clubs must have a full staff with professional licenses.

The women's national team recruits one of the best coaches, Reynald Pedros, a two-time winner of the UEFA Champions League.

In addition, Morocco becomes in 2019 the first African country to use video assistance (VAR) for its first and second division championship matches.

Fouzi Lekjaa has thus contributed to significantly improve the state of Moroccan soccer, both male and female, both for clubs and national teams. Vice-President of the CAF and candidate for a seat on the FIFA Council in the elections of March 2021, Fouzi Lekjaa also has a clear and dispassionate vision of African soccer, consistent with the strategy he has implemented at the level of Moroccan soccer. Also at Alain Foka, he said, on the subject of infrastructure, that "the great deficit of Africa is linked to the infrastructure deficit. Our continent needs a Marshall Plan to develop soccer infrastructure. We must recognize this priority. We will not be able to develop our competitions with this infrastructure, we will not be able to develop marketing in the future, everything is linked, it is a chain, we must start from the beginning".

"We can make a marshall plan in all countries, starting where the deficit is huge. The experience is there, we can do great things in two years, with financing that we can bring back, and amortize over time, over a maturity of 20-30 years from subsidies. I will continue to advocate for this. FIFA can take money out on the market at zero interest rates, and CAF, by taking care of its image, management and governance, could also do so under almost the same conditions".

He also has an interesting opinion on the importance of having efficient governance within CAF: "CAF as an institution needs to strengthen its managerial capacities, to put in place real management procedures based on the achievement of objectives, transparency and clarity of procedures. This is necessary. If we manage to improve our capacity to invest in infrastructure to keep the added value and export it by negotiating a share of return, and if we manage to reform our management and governance, these reforms together will allow African soccer not only to compete but to make a giant step forward in terms of international positioning, because the talent is there, the youth exist and the potential is huge, we will have the right at that time to dream of an African national team in the World Cup final, and we can reduce the gaps with other confederations substantially.

"CAF must modernize, and this concerns all aspects of governance, legal, digitalization, control, audit, good management and transparency, it is fundamental for an institution like CAF. This does not mean that today there is nothing, but CAF has unfortunately suffered too long a stagnation and therefore it is necessary to make a huge qualitative leap. The intelligence is to find the means, the procedures to make this leap without deep fractures".

Fouzi Lekjaa, a promoter of greater south-south cooperation between African countries (the FRMF has signed more than forty partnership agreements with other African federations), says that the success of African soccer can only be collective and advocates the pooling of efforts. "We have allowed, we allow and will allow African national teams to come at the time they wish to spend internships and take advantage of technological developments and performance that exists at the Mohammed VI Complex because in any case the success at the level of our continent can only be collective and the evolution can only be collective.”

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