The year 2020 marks a significant milestone for blind football in Morocco as the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games edge closer.
Yet to recover from the hangover of success, player of the 2019 IBSA Blind Football African Championships Zouhair Snisla and his Moroccan team are living the moment of sharing the podium for the fourth time in Enugu, Nigeria.
“After we succeeded in qualifying for Tokyo 2020
, the feeling we had was indescribable. We were overcome with the hugs and applause, which were not the only things to take our attention as we knew the extent of hard work that it took to reach this level. What increased our pride was that the fans lived with us, as if they were sharing the same stage,” says Snisla.
Morocco also secured the African title in 2014, 2015 and 2017. Having qualified for Tokyo 2020, it will be the second time Morocco takes to the Paralympic stage following their debut in 2016.
With less than six months in hand, the team is undergoing extensive training to reach their peak. From medium to intense training, the team is aware of the challenges that might come ahead of them:
“There are several steps that will be taken by the Moroccan national team for a good participation in Tokyo 2020; for example, going into a long-term camp, tightening of training sessions and intensifying them, as well as participating in drills that include all the teams participating in this session,” Snisla said.
“It is natural that every road has its hardships, and this is what has been applied to us in several camps where we have faced severe financial and moral difficulties, but we were able to overcome them simply and patiently.”
Caption: Zouhair celebrates with his teammates after winning the African title last year.
It was not until 2007 when blind football reached Morocco. Gathering players and training them to a professional level opened the door of opportunity to many, including Snisla. A promising, if inexperienced, young player at the time of his debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, Snisla has gradually proved himself to be one of the top scorers of the team. With the increasing popularity of the sport in the country, the team gets better day by day.
Snisla and his team are aware that teams like defending champions Brazil and Argentina will be tough to defeat in Tokyo 2020.
However, that does not demotivate the team. They have a high level of respect for all of their opponents and expect the Paralympics to be a great platform.
”First of all, I would like to thank our fans for being our strength and welcoming us with open arms. As for Tokyo 2020, I wish success to all the participating teams and an intense audience attendance.”
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will take place at the Aomi Urban Sports Park. Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Japan, Morocco, Spain and Thailand will all go for gold from 30th August to 5th September.
Click here to check out the results from all four editions of the IBSA Blind Football African Championships
By Sarah S Nasir for IBSA