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Rovers World Cup Connections: Morocco

7 June 2018

With the World Cup about to begin in Russia, we look at connections between Bristol Rovers Football Club and the 32 participating countries.

In some cases these connections are strong and multiple; in others they are tenuous, at best. Morocco are competing in their fifth World Cup Finals, but this is their first appearance in 20 years.

National Coach

Apart from Belgium's Roberto Martínez, the only manager of a side at the 2018 World Cup Finals who has also competed against Rovers is Morocco's coach, Hervé Renard.

A Frenchman, he was manager of the Cambridge United side which faced Rovers in October 2004 prior to a peripatetic managerial career which has taken him to Zambia, China, Vietnam, Ghana and the Ivory Coast. He became national coach of Morocco in February 2016.

The Moroccan International

It was in the pre-season friendly in July 2017, which doubled as Peter Aitken's testimonial game, that Nacer Chadli played against Rovers for West Brom.

Despite being Belgian by birth, the talented midfielder has one full cap with Morocco, having played in 2010 against Northern Ireland, but he has since pledged his international footballing allegiance to Belgium.

Youssef Safri, born in Casablanca in January 1977 and with 77 caps to his name, scored for Norwich City against Rovers in the League Cup in the autumn of 2004; he is now coach of Raja Casablanca.

Moroccan Influences

In recent years, a number of Moroccans have played against Rovers.

Yassin Moutaouakil, who was born in France of Moroccan descent, played for Pompey against Rovers over Christmas 2013.

Kieran Djilali, English born of Moroccan heritage, played for Wimbledon against Rovers in March 2012.

Abdelhalim El-Kholti, French-born into a Moroccan family, played for Yeovil Town and Cambridge United against Rovers, scoring at Huish Park in March 2004.

André Blackman, who was sent off in Crawley's colours in an FA Cup tie against Rovers in November 2016, played three times for MAS Fez that same year.


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