About the Author: Jane Daly serves as the Acting Public Affairs Officer at the Dar America Information Resource Center in Casablanca, Morocco.
Despite gathering storm clouds, the final games of the Al Hofra Soccer Tournament kicked off Sunday amid cheers and good spirits. Located on the outskirts of Casablanca, Morocco, the Al Hofra neighborhood is home to some of the most underprivileged children in the Ben M’Sik district - and some of the most talented and enthusiastic soccer players.
Sponsored by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca, and supported by the Idmaj Neighborhood Association, the event provided more than 150 local children the opportunity to practice their footwork. The competition was divided by age group, and at the end of the week, organizers even added more games to accommodate family members of the players who wanted to join in on the fun. The tournament concluded with an exhibition game between former professional soccer players and adults from the Al Hofra neighborhood.
The members of the Idmaj Neighborhood Association, local high school and university students, worked tirelessly to organize the schedule and to clean the soccer fields for the games. Idmaj means “integration” in Arabic, and the association works to improve living conditions and promote literacy within the Ben M’Sik district. The association will work with members of the community to clear the fields of debris every week after the tournament to promote community involvement, social responsibility, and sports as a positive outlet.
Soccer is extremely popular in Morocco, especially with urban youth. Through this and other sports diplomacy initiatives, the U.S. Department of State aims to promote cross-cultural understanding and positive activities within the most marginalized sectors of society.
With shouts of encouragement in Moroccan Arabic, the American flag-decorated soccer ball flew into the top left corner of the goal, leaving a billowing Moroccan flag and dozens of smiling faces in its wake.