Young program with big vision & goals is developing American Football in Morocco
American Football International had the opportunity to speak with Ahmed Ben El Cadi, President of the Association Nationale Marocaine de Football Américain (ANMFA).
The ANMFA is the governing organization of American Football in Morocco, and the organizer of the Moroccan national team headed to Cairo, Egypt in a few weeks to fight for a the opportunity to represent Africa in the 2015 Stockholm World Championships.
American Football programs are sprouting up across the continent. Egypt, Algeria, and Cote D’Ivoire are all programs we have interviewed and learned about this year, and now we are lucky to present this Q & A with Ahmed Ben El Cadi and an ambitious and rapidly growing program. Enjoy!
1. What is the Moroccan National Association of American Football (ANMFA)?
The ANMFA (Association Nationale Marocaine de Football Américain) is the organization in charge of managing American Football and Flag Football’s affairs and raising its profile in the Kingdom of Morocco, in line with the rules and regulations set by IFAF (International Federation of American Football).
ANMFA works to develop the sport all over Morocco and supports the creation of local teams (such as the Tangiers Dragons or Casablanca Stars). On the other hand, ANMFA manages Team Morocco, an all-Moroccan team which gathers all the active Moroccan American Football players from all over the world.
2. Tell us a little about yourself and your role in your organizations.
I’m Ahmed Ben El Cadi and I’m a mathematical engineer who was born and raised in Salé, Morocco. I started playing football during my studies in France. I played for the Molosses d’Asniéres-sur-Seine and the Cannes Iron Mask.
I’m currently the President of the organization. My role is to manage ANMFA’s steering Committee and represent ANMFA towards political and international institutions.
3. When and how was your team/organization formed? What is the behind the founding of your organizations?
It all started in the beginning of 2012 when I met Akram El Janati (our Vice President) who was playing QB with the Zaragoza Hurricanes in Spain. We shared our desire to identify and unite all the Moroccan football players and inspire a new generation of Moroccans to the sport. We therefore decided to organize an introduction camp in Rabat, this is where we met the other players that are active now in our organization: Samir Khazaz (La Queue-en-brie Gladiateurs, France) and Rachdi Zaoui (Albi Hurricanes, France).
4. How many active athletes/players are in your organization?
In Tangier (Dragons) we count something like 25 players who play both flag and tackle football. In Casablanca (Stars), there are around 30 players. This team led by Omar Baiz focuses more on Flag Football. In Rabat (Lions), the team managed by Tarik Mouh gathers more than 40 players and is now looking to bring equipment
Besides that, Team Morocco gathers more than 100 players playing in Europe (France, Germany), USA and Canada. All of them play in competitive championships. Some of them are professional or semi-professional.
5. What are some of the challenges your organization has faced? What are some of the challenges you foresee for American Football in Morocco?
Well it goes without saying that every ambitious project goes through many obstacles. It is only the ability to step over every one and move forward that brings success. I must admit that the legal process was quite hard with very little assistance. We also had to work around our little financial means and I must say that I’m very proud of all what accomplished so far given that. Another problem was finding reliable partners. Some people made us lose a lot of effort and time but we’ve learned from that and we are now a very solid and confident organization.
Now there are two big challenges for us. The first one is the difficulty to bring equipment to Morocco. There are very few ways to get football equipment in Morocco. There are not many stores and shipping is very complicated.
The second one is our funding. So far we only managed to work and build things thanks to the volunteers’ involvement. But now if we want to take the step beyond and compete in official events, we need to find financial support and sponsors.
We have started an IndieGoGo campaign to help us fund our effort in the IFAF Africa championship, which will take place in Egypt against Team Egypt on December 13th, 2014.
6. Do you receive any support from governmental organizations?
Our relation to the government seems promising, we have had numerous occasions to meet and discuss how we may move forward together.
Discussions started in the summer of 2013 when we presented our activities to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport; so far we have exchanged mainly on legal and administrative basis, so we do not have financial support at this stage but we are optimistic in that our case for recognition is currently under review by the Minister himself. We value all forms of support coming from our ministry and hope to build on that, we are realistic and know that to have a greater impact in developing the sport and creating more opportunities on a national scale we need to join forces and work together.
7. How do your countries law and customs affect your ability to development American Football?
The laws regulating associations are very strict, and require a lot of items that discourage teams and people from joining ANMFA legally.
This is the reason why only two teams are officially established in Morocco when many more are practicing. I’m speaking mostly about teams that are practicing in the south of Morocco in towns like Goulmima, Erfoud and Errachidia.
8. Are there many NFL & NCAA American Football fans in Morocco? If so, what teams or schools? How did they learn about American Football?
The NFL has many fans, mainly people who lived or studied in the USA, the San Francisco 49ers being the most popular team. When you walk in the streets of Rabat or Casablanca, you’ll be surprised to see many NFL caps or jerseys.
The NCAA is only followed by a few people in Morocco.
9. Have you established a schedule? Who do you play and when does your season begin and end?
We’re currently working on building our schedule but it depends on many factors.
For the local teams, the goal is to keep on practicing towards a uniform level before scheduling the first encounters. As for Team Morocco, we held a training camp in Morocco in August but are still looking for an opponent to come and play in Morocco.
10. Do your teams have access to the proper equipment and facilities?
As we said before it is very difficult to find or bring equipment into Morocco. Right now only the Tangier Dragons have decent facilities and some equipment paid by its founder.
Besides this, there are not so many sports field in Moroccan cities and their access is very complicated. Therefore, the other teams practice mainly on the beach with the little equipment (flags, balls) that the ANMFA has managed to provide them. Team Morocco is facing the same field issues when it comes to organizing training camps.
11. How do you finance the expenses related to operating your team?
Currently we only have donations, mainly from the board members, in order to finance the operating expenses.I want to thank them again for all the efforts they make. We also had talks with private sponsors but it didn’t go beyond the initial intentions. However we are still looking for partnerships and we do believe that football values can provide many benefits to companies’ public image.
12. What are you organization’s short-term (1-3 years) and long-term (3+ years) goals?
Our very short-term goal was to join IFAF (International Federation of American Football) and then to win the African spot at the next IFAF World Cup in Sweden 2015. That would give much more visibility to American Football in Morocco and would bring many people and sponsors. We were granted full IFAF membership at the IFAF Congress in Kuwait City this summer.
In the short term, we also want to organize the first Moroccan national championship of Flag Football, which will gather all the existing teams.
Our long term goals are to establish American football as the go-to sport in Morocco. Our goal is to reach a thousand practitioners and have a regular tackle football championship with at least six teams. We also want to spread flag football in schools and universities. We think that American Football brings really strong values to society and youth such as commitment, teamwork and the ability to overcome personal limits.
13. Can you share an interesting cultural experience you’ve had in your country while trying to explain what American Football is and how it is played?
Here’s a discussion that comes over and over is:
Q: This is rugby, right?
A: No, it’s American Football.
Q: Is the same thing, no?
A: No, let me explain to you…
Q: Ah…. So…. it’s rugby with protection!
A: OMG! Seriously?!?!?
Another funny thing is that people rarely say ‘no’ or “they don’t know” in Morocco. So when you ask a receiver to do a fade route for example:
– Ok, you’ll go for a fade route. You know what it is, right?
– Yes, I know, don’t worry I know.
Then he runs a slant or whatever….
So, as you can see, there is still plenty of work to do.
14. What are events/projects are in the immediate future for your teams and league?
Our current projects are to keep developing American Football in Morocco.
We just started to work on a project brought by Université Polythecnique Privée de Casablanca’s dean Mohamed El Kadiri along with Marie Lacerte from Québec and former Canadian college player Chris Piché from Ecole des Pros. The University, which is the Moroccan branch of Université Polytechnique de Laval (8-time Canadian College Champions with the “Rouge et Or”) just decided to add an American Football Program and we’re now encouraging other universities in Morocco to do so and join a University league.
Besides, as I said earlier, our immediate goal is to be the African representative in the 2015 World Cup. We held a Team Morocco Camp this summer in Morocco. The objective was to review as many players as possible and conduct tryouts for local players. We still encourage any and all Moroccan players who read this to apply to us for a tryout!
15. Are there any other things you’d like to let the world know about American Football in Morocco?
I want to say that everything that has been accomplished so far wouldn’t have been possible without the help of everyone: the players, the local teams, our support systems and our families. I specially want to thank Team Morocco Head Coach David Serreau who is more than a coach but a true help in our association.
We knew from the start that it would be hard to bring American Football to Morocco, nothing is due to us nor granted so we should constantly fight for our dream to come true. But it is remarkable to see so many Moroccans stepping up and making the difference in the country. There are plenty of young and dynamic organizations working to give more chances to people and we are happy to be a part of them.
You can learn more about American Football in Morocco and the ANMFA by following the links below.