Morocco benefits from FIFA rule change

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Morocco benefits from FIFA rule change

Moroccan coach Vahid Halilhodzic immediately took advantage of a recent FIFA rule change to include Munir El Haddadi in his final squad.

The old rule prevented the 25-year-old Sevilla forward from playing for the Atlas Lions as he won a competitive cap for Spain.

However, during FIFA's annual convention last month, the rule has been changed, following a proposal from the Moroccan Football Federation.

Players can now switch if they haven't played more than three games at the senior level, with all appearances occurring before the player is 21.

Appearances in World Cup finals or continental finals such as the Africa Cup of Nations would prohibit a change in eligibility, but participation in a qualifying tournament would not.

“I've been talking to Munir for six months and he said his desire is to play for Morocco,” said Halilhodzic when announcing his squad.

“I took advantage of this lockdown period to observe, analyze and get to know the players I need like Munir and Ayman (Barkook and former young German player). These are the players the national team need.

“This dual nationality problem exists in so many countries, where players have to make a choice at an early age.

“What's important is that I shouldn't be the person pressuring the player to change his decision.

“They are here because they are attached to their country of origin. It is their decision without any pressure.

“They are Moroccans like all other Moroccans. They are serious and they want to be here and achieve something for their country ”.

Morocco have two friendlies lined up for the next international break, first against Senegal on October 9 and DR Congo four days later.

Both matches will be played behind closed doors in Rabat as the Atlas Lions prepare for the back-to-back African Cup of Nations playoffs in November against the Central African Republic.

A reprieve

Munir El Haddadi celebrates goal for Spain's Sevilla team
Munir El Haddadi helped Sevilla win the Europa League in 2020

The appeal is a second chance for the former Barcelona player to establish himself as an international, one he believed to have disappeared when Fifa and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Case) rejected his request to play for the Morocco.

He was not allowed to swap allegiances because at 19 he made only one appearance for Spain, in a European Championship qualifying match against Macedonia in September 2014, when he was entered as a substitute and played less than 15 minutes.

Previous regulations allowed players to swap their national allegiances if they had played in friendly and non-competitive matches, even if they had dual nationality.

El Haddadi, who appealed to Cas in conjunction with the Moroccan Football Federation, had called for a fast-track decision in hopes of playing for the North Africans at next month's World Cup in Russia.

He was born in Spain and has a Moroccan father and started his career at the famous Barcelona Youth Academy where he made his professional debut.

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