Rabat – And the rain came down!

Well, continuing where I left you back in June. Still having problems with my feet and am only on this trip thanks to an ANP (Auxiliary Nurse Practitioner) aspirating a blister on my foot, just six hours before I depart..

A lengthy consultation was, the gist of it being I can put a needle in and drain it. Which will relieve the problem now, but it is likely to fill up again. Or we can cut a hole in it which will leave an open wound, liable to infection, but the same blister should not come back.

So I am off to Morocco armed with plasters and antibiotics, in case the foot gets infected.

Many thanks to my dad who came to pick me up after 11 at night to take me to the bus station.

The plane arrived in Marrakech without a fanfare, so I guess it was late. In the arrivals area there were landing cards to fill in, but no one directing people to do so! (This left me wondering if this was a sign of things to come.)

My next observation was that the urinals in the airport were rather high. I could understand this in the Netherlands, but I wasn’t aware that Moroccans were that tall.

I successfully changed money and picked up my CWC match tickets before getting the bus to the train station.

IMG_1995

I had already been asked to write a few match reports for a website for African football and so I did a bit of research on the two African sides competing.

To say I was a bit upset when the Moroccan side Moghreb Tetouan lost to Auckland City on penalties before I had even left for the tournament is putting it mildly. Work commitments meant that I couldn’t get to the first game and set off on the Friday 12th, the tournament started on the 10th.

So my piece on them was wasted and the biggest football match between two African teams wasn’t going to happen either.

Not content with ruining my stories the Moroccan F.A. have also made a number of changes to the weekend’s fixtures, which affected what I was planning.

Anyway, purchased my train ticket in second class for the 4 hour 30 minute journey to Rabat. I asked if I should board any particular carriage – the guard recommended the one at the front (of the longest passenger train you have seen!) The train, although old was clean and made good speed across the bland Moroccan countryside.

Arriving at my Riad in Rabat I met Angelo who had travelled from Australia to watch his team Western Sydney. He seemed familiar, almost as though I had seen him before. I noted a sign at the Riad which stated the opening hours as 8a.m. to midnight.

A trip into the Medina for some food, and I doubled the number of Australian friends I have, as we met Julio. He went to the game last Wednesday and explained that he had to walk the 8k back to town after the match, which went to extra time and penalties due to a lack of public transport.

Angelo informed me that our hostel was going to stay open till 1a.m this Saturday night as they were aware of the transport problems, last Wednesday.
Back at the Riad were more football supporters the loudest one being Mariano who was dressed in a blue and red djellaba. This is a local loose fitting robe. He explained it was the last one in the market in his club’s colours.

Now Rabat is dry, but that didn’t stop Mariano’s colleagues getting a taxi across the river to Carrefour in Sale where they served alcohol.

The next day I tried to find about about the Moroccan league fixtures that weekend the Moroccan F.A. Website stated that they had moved the Rabat Derby from Monday back to Sunday and the venue from Rabat to Khemmiset a town some 50k away due to the state of the pitch in Rabat.

I found that I could get a shared taxi to Khemmiset for 35 dirhams (£3). The shared taxis leave from a fixed point in the city, usually waiting till they are full (six passengers crammed in) and drive along a fixed route and can be stopped along the way.

Now the kick off in Khemmiset is scheduled for 13.00 meaning that I could make it back to Rabat in time for the 17.00 train to Casablanca which would get me there in time to see Wydad Casablanca who kicked off at 18.30.

With tomorrow’s plans sorted I went to do some sightseeing taking in Hassan Tower, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V and then a short, slow walk down by the mouth of the river Bou Regreg to the Kasbah of the Udayas. It dates back to the 1150’s and is a maze of passageways with houses coloured blue and white which lead ( if you can find it) to a terrace view of the sea and the town of Sale on the other side of the River.

Arranged to meet my Australian friends to travel to the stadium whilst waiting for them at the pre arranged time of 14.30 I asked at the Fan Fest how we could get to the stadium. There was a long pause and one of the volunteers went to find out.

When they eventually came back they announced that we were too late to take a bus as it left between 11 and 12. The game kicked off at 16.00!

So we jumped in a shared taxi, which quickly filled up with it’s six passengers. Arriving at the entrance to the stadium there was strict security and a maze of rails designed to turn a 100 metre straight walk into a 2k obstacle course as the locals hurdled the barriers I trudged round slowly.

The locals seemed friendly enough, and were clearly backing the team from New Zealand against the team from neighbouring Algeria.

Every touch by Auckland City was cheered, this turned to ole’s as they grew in confidence. Any noise from the 1,500 or so Algerians was quickly drowned out.

After an hour Auckland scored and the noise from the Moroccan supporters grew louder, even chanting the Auckland team’s name.

The rain which had been falling throughout the game and at the final whistle of the first game, most people left the stadium.

There was a 90 minute wait before the next game!

I sheltered with Julio under the stand, hoping that the rain would stop.

We emerged at 19.30 in time to see the kick off and took our place standing on our seats above a hundred or so Cruz Azul fans with Julio resplendent in his red and white hooped Western Sydney Wanderers top.

Whilst Julio frantically waved at the twenty or so compatriots of his in the stand opposite I shivered.

The match should not have been played, obviously Australia are known to be good at most sports, swimming being one of them. This gave them an unfair advantage as they were meant to be playing football.

Western Sydney took a shock lead and were within two minutes of victory, before the referee awarded a penalty.

If ever I have wanted someone to miss a penalty, this was the one. Unfortunately it was converted and it meant extra time!

WSW had already had one man sent off and once they had a second sent off there was only going to be one winner. For a moment they played 5-2-1, but gave in and all ended in defence. Cruz Azul got the second goal, which was celebrated with a dive on the ground the length of a swimming pool.

After the match there were six in our party so we tried to find a shared taxi, back to the city. Whilst the others were doing this I approached a bus and asked if it was going back to the Medina. Much to my surprise they answered positively. I called the others and we made it back to town before 11p.m.

We had an hour, before we needed to back at our hostel so went for something to eat.

Farouk had joined our party, he is a Tunisian journalist (and the first person I had met who was a teenage Etoile du Sahel fan) living in Morocco, for two years… Mainly because of the CWC and the African Cup of Nations. He gave his explanation for Morocco refusing to host the ACN in January next year as tourism. The Moroccans feared that any talk of Ebola would ruin their tourist industry.

He also explained that the Rabat Derby would be extremely dangerous, he informed me that FAR the Army side from Rabat had recently been given a five match ban on supporters attending home games. His words were that they didn’t get the ban for nothing!!!!!

Farouk invited me to join him in Casablanca for the Wydad game, the opportunity to have my own guide was too good to turn down so I agreed to meet him at Casa Voyageurs train station at 16.20, in time for the 18.30 kick off. Giving up on my ambitious plan A.

 

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