08 - 16
July 2023
49 Hamza Bechchar (MAR), 11 Ali Lahrichi (MAR), 22 Jihad Benchlikha (MAR)
to read

Is the 2023 FIBA AfroCan final signalling the start of a new era for Morocco basketball?

LUANDA (Angola) - By advancing to the 2023 FIBA AfroCan Final, Morocco have added another line to their list of achievements.

However, the North African nation have struggled to find their way to the top table of African basketball and, have all but disappeared from the radar since finishing fourth at 2017 FIBA AfroBasket.

Morocco's return to the top has legitimized the expectations of players who dream even bigger.

Ayoub Achouri is donning the Moroccan suit for the first time 

Small forward Ayoub Achouri is excited about the boost that being there, and possibly winning the Final, could give to the sport in Morocco.

"In the past few years, we've been absent for various reasons. There was the outbreak of Covid-19, but just before that we finished fourth at the first AfroCan in Bamako," he recalls.

Although he wasn't part of the squad, he followed his national team's progress from afar. Today, he is well on his way to becoming one of its leaders, although the process will take time.

"Our last trip was in 2019. Then there were the AfroBasket qualifiers and we were eliminated by Uganda. That was two years ago, but today we're in the AfroCan finals. Who'd have thought it?"

Yet Moroccan basketball has produced some of Africa's biggest names and even reigned supreme on the continent from the '60s to the '80s, when the North African kingdom's men's team emerged as champions once (1965), runners-up twice (1964, 1968) and third-placers twice (1962, 1980).

Since then, it's been a long string of second-tier finishes, ranging from 6th to 13th, until the 2017 AfroBasket, where Morocco finished fourth.

The Moroccan team's absence from the African scene also meant a year-and-a-half hiatus from all basketball-related competitions in Morocco.

"It was difficult to get the players together. But after two years, there were training sessions and today we have a team made up of both young and experienced players. And this team really wants to be here for the long haul. In a way, this break has been good for the players," Achouri notes.

In Luanda, Achouri, who has been called to suit up for Morocco for the first time in his career, and his teammates will be looking to write a new chapter in their history. As one of the team's newcomers, he is keen to get his international career off to the best possible start.

"We are in the finals. We're going there to win. With the will of the boys and the team management, we're there and we're going to win."

Morocco has successfully fended off Rwanda, Cameroon, Kenya and DR Congo en route to the Finals

The participation of young players has also given the national team a boost. The mix of old and new seems to be working.

"There are four of us who are celebrating our first call-up. Behind us, are the youngsters who are in Monastir for the FIBA Africa U16 championships. The Federation has put its faith in the youngsters, and we can see that the mainstays of the team are coming to the end of their careers, but they're still there, waiting for the young players to take over."

The long-term goal is to qualify for the next FIBA AfroBasket in 2025 and the next AfroCan. Morocco's presence for 2027 is already assured thanks to their qualification for the Semi-Finals.

"We missed the 2021 AfroBasket. So we really want to build a big team to be at the next one and get a result like we did here in Luanda," he concluded.