Morocco Coach Takes Advantage of FIFA Rule Change to Invite El Haddadi

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Morocco coach, Vahid Halilhodzic, has immediately taken advantage of a recent change in FIFA regulations to include Munir El Haddadi in his latest squad.

The old regulations prevented the 25-year-old Sevilla forward from playing for the Atlas Lions as he had earned a competitive cap for Spain.

However at last month’s FIFA annual congress the rule was amended, following a proposal by the Moroccan Football Federation.

Players can now switch if they have played no more than three matches at senior level, with all the appearances coming before the player turns 21.

Appearances in World Cup finals matches or continental finals such as the Africa Cup of Nations would prohibit a change of eligibility, but appearing in a tournament qualifier would not.

“I have been talking to Munir for the last six months and he has told his desire is to play for Morocco,” Halilhodzic said as he announced his squad.

“I have profited from this lockdown period to observe, analyse and know the players I need like Munir and Ayman (Barkook and former German youth player). They are the type of players the national team needs.

“This problem of dual nationality exists in so many countries, where players have to make a choice at an early age.

“What is important is that I shouldn’t be the person to make pressure on the player to change his decision.

“They are here because they are attached to their country of origin. It is their decision without any pressure.

“They are Moroccans like all the other Moroccans. They are serious and they want to be here and achieve something for their country.”

Morocco have two friendlies lined-up for the upcoming international break firstly against Senegal on 9 Octoberand DR Congo four days later.

Both games will be played behind closed doors in Rabat as the Atlas Lions prepare for November’s back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Central African Republic.

The call-up is a second chance for the former Barcelona player to establish himself as an international, one he thought had gone when both FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) turned down his request to play for Morocco.

He was not allowed to swap allegiances because at age of 19 he made a single appearance for Spain, in a European championship qualifier against Macedonia in September 2014, when he came on as a substitute and played less than 15 minutes.

The previous regulations allowed players to swap national allegiances if they had played in friendly games and not competitive ones, even if they held dual nationality.

El Haddadi, who made his appeal to CAS jointly with the Moroccan Football Federation, had asked for a fast-track ruling in the hope of playing for the North Africans at next month’s World Cup in Russia.

He was born in Spain and has a Moroccan father and began his career at Barcelona’s famous youth academy where he made his professional debut.