The next day Friday, and I was back in Casablanca. Yes, not content with a night in Casablanca I had to go one better. I arrived in time to visit Hassan II mosque.
Built in 1993 it is the largest Mosque in Africa with a capacity of 105,000 and features a retractable roof.
Remembering the chaos of my visit last Sunday I decided to arrive early to get my ticket and a place in the stand. I had already checked the weather forecast, and thank goodness it would be dry. I arrived at 16.00.
I decided, I wanted to sit diagonally opposite where I sat last time and saw went to the ticket booth and explained. No one spoke English, and they didn’t seem very interested in selling a ticket. However a policeman who spoke Italian explained that I should meet him at 18.30 and he would sneak me in. Grazzi Mille, Francesco, but he was on the wrong side of the stadium.
Walking round the stadium, a young man informed that this was a football ground and the home of Raja Casablanca, the best team in Africa. I was able to tell him that today they were actually the second best team in the whole world. As last year they represented Morocco in the CWC defeating Athletic Miniero ( who had Ronaldinho playing for them) in the semi final and losing 3-1 to Bayern Munich. Today was the last day they could claim this as tomorrow would see Real Madrid or San Lorenzo take their place.
I explained where I wanted to sit, to Yassir and he agreed to help me. He told me he hoped to get into the ground for free when they opened the gates in the second half.
We found a ticket for 30 dirhams (less than £2.50) I asked if he wanted to join me and his eyes lit up.
The deal was he would help me find the spot I was looking for in the ground.
I took Yassir for a coffee and something to eat. He too was from Kenitra, and had moved down to Casablanca three weeks ago to find work after his father died. He was homeless, but Inshallah, he will soon find work and he is going to make his mother proud of him.
We entered the stadium and I found the spot I was looking for on the crumbling terraces, with half the seats missing. I offered Yassir a tissue to clean his seat, and he offered me his bag containing all his possessions to sit on. So there I was with the only padded seat in the stadium, much better than Arsenal or Milton Keynes!
Yassir started to ask me something, but stopped himself. (I thought he might be about to ask for money). I told him it was O. K. to ask whatever he wanted. His request. If I would buy him a Raja Casablanca hat… cost 20 dirhams. We got the hat and I took his photograph in the stadium.
Raja won 4-1 and the locals should have been happy, but after the match, there were fights breaking out and people walking down the road with sticks ready to hit anything or anyone that came near.
I grabbed Yassir and pulled him away from the crowd. His blanket was in the Medina, near where I was staying. He said we could walk, but I explained I would rather catch the tram and led him the way I knew.
Arriving at the tram stop, I gave him the 6 dirhams to get a ticket. He joined the melee, but returned five minutes later without a ticket. He told me that they were pushing and shoving and it felt like there would be a fight. Sure enough a scuffle broke out and punches were exchanged as the mob forced one person away.
So we went for a shared taxi. We went for something to eat and drink before parting our ways.
Yassir told me that the evening before we met he had been playing with a sick cat. When he woke up the next morning it was dead.