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MENA Sports Wrap: Morocco youth team re-runs World Cup glory

MENA Sports Wrap: Qatar to donate Asian Cup ticket sales to Palestine, while Morocco reach U-17 WC QFs
4 min read
24 November, 2023
MENA Sports Wrap: Morocco's U-17 team has reached the furthest stage in the nation's history, following a phenomenal run in Indonesia.
Morocco's youth team have made stunning progress in the U-17 World Cup [Getty/TNA]

Qatar has said they will offer sales for the 2022 AFC Asian Cup to Palestine, with the tournament due to take place early next year.

Morocco's kids are, meanwhile, making their country proud again, after reaching the quarter-finals of the U-17 World Cup in Indonesia.

The U-17 team will play Mali in Indonesia this weekend, mirroring the glorious run of the seniors in Qatar 2022.

Meanwhile, Newcastle United could poach players from Saudi clubs following a crunch vote in England this week.

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Tickets for Palestine

Proceeds for ticket sales for the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 will be donated for aid and relief work in the occupied Palestinian Territory, the tournament’s Local Organising Committee (LOC) announced earlier this week.

"We have decided to donate ticketing revenue generated from the Asian Cup in Qatar to much-needed relief efforts in Palestine," said the committee’s chairman, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

"We will be certain that this corporate social responsibility initiative will benefit those most affected, and that football fulfills its role as a support mechanism for people during the most difficult of times."

The move comes amid Israel's war on Gaza, where around 1.7 million Palestinians have been displaced, according to the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

The Israeli bombardment has killed around 14,000 Palestinians, including thousands of children, according to health authorities in the enclave.

The upcoming AFC Asian Cup will be Qatar’s third time hosting the tournament, featuring 24 of Asia’s top national teams vying for the continent’s top prize.

The tournament will take place in January and February, with big names such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Japan.

Palestine's squad will compete in the tournament, after qualifying with a 4-0 win over the Philippines.

Last year, Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup saw the Palestinian cause highlighted by both fans and officials, who waved the country’s flag and made statements of solidarity.

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Morocco storms the u-17s World Cup

Morocco's youth team is replicating the remarkable 2022 World Cup run of the seniors this year in Indonesia, reaching the quarter-finals of the U-17s World Cup.

The U-17 team defeated Iran on penalties in a Round of 16 match on Tuesday, following goals from Iranian striker Esmaeil Gholizadeh and Morocco forward Nassim Azaouzi.

They will now face Mali at the Manahan Stadium in Surakarta on Saturday, kick off 7:30pm local time, in what guarantees to be a thrilling game.

The young Moroccan side has taken the kingdom to the furthest stage in the nation's U-17 World Cup history, having reached the last 16 in 2013.

If they beat Mali they will face either France or Uzbekistan in the quarter-final on Tuesday, with the winners of that stage facing Germany or France in the final round on 1 December.

Morocco's senior team stunned football fans in 2022 when they beat giants Portugal and Spain to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup. They were eventually beaten by France 2-0, but returned home as heroes.

The Morocco women's team also reached the last-16 in the Women's World Cup this year.

Let's hope the youth team can go one step further and lift the coveted U-17 trophy in Indonesia or replicate this success on a senior level during the 2026 World Cup in the Americas.

Saudi Pro League to the UK?

Newcastle United will this winter be able to dip into a vast player pool of clubs also owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Premier League side's majority stakeholder, following a crunch vote by English football clubs this week on whether to sanction such moves.

A vote by fellow Premier League clubs to temporarily ban English sides from loaning players from teams under the same ownership fell short of the two-thirds needed.

The move was meant to temporarily prevent Premier League clubs from tapping into the squads of sister teams abroad during the winter transfer window.

Clubs have been able to sign players from clubs under the same ownership, though the issue was heightened by the Saudi PIF having a major stake in the Premier League side since 2021.

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Some English sides have expressed concerns that Premier League teams bringing in players from affiliated clubs would give them an unfair advantage.

The PIF owns Saudi Arabia's four major teams - Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr in Riyadh, and Al-Ittihad and Al-Ahli in Jeddah - which have recently signed some of the biggest names in football including Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, and Karim Benzema.

There are rumours that Newcastle might swoop on Al-Hilal player Ruben Neves, who could fill a gap in midfield after Sandro Tonali was banned from all footballing activities until August 2024 for gambling offences.

PIF's bid to buy-out Newcastle United faced many hurdles and protests due to Saudi Arabia's human rights record.