When will an African team ever win the World Cup? Well, Walid Regragui and his team came within touching distance at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Interestingly, Regragui wasn’t a fan favorite when he was appointed as the head coach of the Moroccan national team just three months before the tournament.
He was taunted for his bald head as fans called for a European coach. However, after his heroics at the world’s biggest football stage, Moroccans now heap praise on him. This is the full story of Walid Regragui.
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Walid Regragui’s Early Life
The coach was born in France but went back and forth between his birth country and Morocco. He began playing football in the 1980s. Those who competed against him and watched him describe Regragui as a serious fighter. Growing up, he idolized AC Milan and one of its best players, Marco Van Basten.
When he started his professional career, the manager played as a right winger but shifted to the righ-back position. His teammates say he was obsessed with winning, and his drive made him stand out. Later on, Rudi Garcia noticed Regragui in a youth tournament and created a space for him in his team.
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The ex-footballer started his professional career at Racing Paris, where he played for a year, from 1998 to 1999. He then moved to Toulouse for the next two years before signing with Ajaccio.
Here, Regragui played 72 games and, after three years, found another team. Between 2004 and 2006, the right-back played for Racing Santander. In the following seasons, Regragui went to Dijon, Grenoble, Maghreb Tetouan, and FC Fleury.
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Walid’s coaching career started as an assistant coach at the Moroccan national team. He was there until 2012 when Fath Union Sport (FUS) appointed him as the manager.
He led the team to a cup victory and was named the Mars d’Or Coach of the Year in March 2015. After eight years at the club, he left, joined Al Duhail, and in 2021, was named the coach of Wydad Athletic Club.
Again, he was a success, winning the League in his first season and the CAF Champions League title. This was a huge achievement that caught the attention of the Moroccan federation.
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Back to the National Team
Ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the Moroccan national team was in crisis. Some players vowed never to represent the team again. The former coach, Vahid Halidhodzic was sacked and Walid hired. Normally, African nations opt for a European manager but the federation was impressed by his playing style and achievements.
The press and the fans weren’t pleased with the decision, but Walid accepted the challenge. He reorganized the team, and all the senior players availed themselves to perform their national duty.
They were grouped alongside Belgium, Croatia, and Canada and topped the group. They defeated Spain and Portugal in the last 16 and the quarter-final before losing to France in the Semi-finals.
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How Walid Regragui Made History
In his press duties early in the tournament, he told reporters that African teams should dream about winning the World Cup. He matched that with his tactical approach. He set up his team to play on the counter-attack, which worked well against attacking opponents.
Another reason Walid Regragui is a popular figure is his management skills. He’s more than just a coach. He’s like a father and brother to the players. For this, he was named the CAF Coach of the Year 2023.
Morocco goes into the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations with huge expectations. Will Walid Regragui lead the Atlas Lions to an AFCON win?
Walid’s success shows that investing in local coaches can pay off if they receive the support they need to do the work. Morocco is paving the way for African football and other countries have to follow suit if they want to have the level of success the team is enjoying.
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