FRANKFURT, GERMANY- Last month’s FIFA 2014 Clubs World Cup quarter-final, which saw Western Sydney Wanderers lose their bet for a spot in the semifinals against Real Madrid, only few minutes after they lost that unpredictable bet of not playing a FIFA World Cup game on an ordinary football turf, triggered an unparalleled wave of criticism and condemnation in Morocco. A mere 20 millimeters of raindrops in Rabat turned all football-passionate-eyes around the globe towards a stadium supposedly renovated with an arm and a leg, at a cost estimated at $US 22 Million. In the post-gaze of the event, Morocco’s image has been battered and the country was humiliated by various international media outlets. The leading Spanish outlet AS called the pitch “a potato field.” The Australian goalkeeper of Sydney Wanderers described the situation as “farcical” and deliberately refused to call the field by name, only referring to it as “that” when stressing “you can’t play football on that, full stop.” Matthew Spiranovic, a center-back in the same team, thought “it was the worst conditions he ever encountered during his career.”
When the referee blew on his whistle to relieve the pain and end the game of shame, it was another pain that kicked in; Moroccans had to endure an utmost humiliation manifested in images and videos of the waterlogged pitch echoed all over the world, including a video from leading Sports channel Eurosport featuring a French commetator having a fit of giggles at the sight of the artisanal methods used to drain out the pitch. Feeling humiliated, angry and blistered by the rapid turn of events, various Moroccans took their loathing of the Moroccan Minister of Youth and Sports Mohammed Ouzzine to another new level, considering the man “the first and last responsible for this fiasco.” Mainstream Moroccans latched from all perspectives at what they called a “crystal-clear corruption scandal.” All eyes and fingers were directed to one man who was requested by his compatriots to resign in order to restore some of the country’s dignity, yet he blatantly refused.
Ouzzine Dares to Blame Heaven for the Scandal:
In the aftermath of the event, Ouzzine, the on paper administrative responsible for the fiasco as he is the head of the Ministry in charge of supervising the renovation works in the Moulay Abdellah stadium, took to the media and deliberately refused to be blamed for the scandal, arguing initially that the situation of the pitch was kind of to be expected as there was “too much rain on that day,” forgetting in the meantime how he was, few days before the inception of the World Cup, bragging about “the great quality of the turf that equaled that of Real Madrid’s Prestigious Bernabéu.” His statements linking raindrops to the quality of the turf threw more oil to fire as Moroccans took the statements as an insult to their intelligence.
Under Pressure Ouzzine Playing the Victim Game:
Following this new turn of events, Ouzzine moved the finger of criticism to the Spanish company that renovated the pitch, few days after daring to put the blame on heaven. And again, when we thought the man has finally settled on a victim, low and behold, Ouzzine had more for us. The man sacked his Secretary General and the General Director of the Moulay Abdellah Stadium, intrinsically acknowledging his responsibility in the fiasco, though still refusing to take it publicly. Following the sacking, the wave of anger witnessed in Morocco did all but calm down, especially on social media platforms. Moroccans of all stripes refused advancing scapegoats to the gallows. The event prompted various Internet users to call upon King Mohammed VI to personally intervene and open an investigation, an offer the Moroccan monarch favorably accepted, ordering the government to launch an “in-depth and comprehensive investigation into the irregularities,” and even suspending Ouzzine “from his duties related to the World Cup pending the results of the investigation.” It was clear that Ouzzine’s days were counted, but apparently not quite to him.
The pretentious Ouzzine: A Déja Vue
Anyone who followed Ouzzine’s media outbursts since he took charge of the Ministry of Youth and Sports in 2011 would notice that the man is a typical flip-flopper. The indecisiveness witnessed when advancing various versions to give an explanation to the scandal, and even legitimize it when daring to blame heaven for the toll, is no strange to the man’s behavior, the typical Ouzzine the one says. Back in 2011, his venture in charge of the Ministry of Youth and Sports kicked off with a huge blow. The man was caught red-handed lying to his compatriots when he publicly stated that the FIFA will apply severe sanctions on Morocco if the Ministry of Youth and Sports made public the salary of former Moroccan football national team coach Eric Gerets. Back-then, like a slap in the face, the FIFA released a communiqué refuting Ouzzine’s lies, which drove Morocco’s leading news outlet Hespress to feature a cartoon of the man with a Pinocchio nose.
The fact is whenever Ouzzine takes to the media, his outbursts are aloof and opaque. The man always seem perennially under-prepared, favoring stonewalling and throwing lies to justify the unjustifiable, including an unparalleled record in giving vague, wishy washy, answers. In 2012, the Minister’s daughter was seen walking out with Lionel Messi in a friendly game that saw FC Barcelona face Morocco’s Raja Casablanca. Back then, and to answer the heavy wave of criticism he was subject to, too much fanfare Ouzzine took to the media and argued unashamedly that he did not know who assigned his daughter to the back-then hottest football asset in the world, Lionel Messi, further stressing that “it was rather Messi who was very fortunate to be photographed with my daughter” and that “after all, my daughter is Bent Cha3b.” (A word in Moroccan Darija that designates to be part of the mainstream/not well-off Moroccans)
Ouzzine: Greed and Prestige Under a Minister’s Belt:
Unfortunately, life in Morocco with a Minister tag means to many people power, money, prestige and status, far off from countries like Sweden or Japan where the Minister tag is entwined with responsibility and unconditional love for the country. In Morocco, a Minister tag would draw all attractive lures for a pretentious person. And even though Ouzzine’s crystal-clear responsibility in the scandal has ebbed to a monumental error, he tried to find a way around to keep his vest, least thinking about his country’s image internationally and how primordial his resignation was to give Morocco’s bet to host the FIFA World Cup 2026 a new jolt of life at the eyes of the international scene.
Following the end of the investigation, Ouzzine’s responsibility in the scandal was pinpointed by a governmental committee when stressing that the man was “administratively and politically responsible.” Sadly for him, lust and desire for keeping his warm chair blinded him to the point he forgot that he could have restored some of his dignity at the eyes of his compatriots if he had resigned right after the inception of the scandal. Yet, it remains of a pipe dream, for blinded by the lust for money, prestige and power, the man opted for fighting for it to the last bit. And then, when the report fell over his head, he left the Ministry without an iota of dignity.
Ouzzine to be taken to the gallows for throwing $US 22 Million in the Thrash Bin?
Now that the case has folded, Ouzzine is still deemed a winner, for if he were a Minister in a typical autocratic country like North Korea, his head would have been chopped off long time ago, not to say he would have been thrown to a pack of hungry crocodiles and dogs, for humiliating the country’s image and, to say the very least, misusing $US 22 Million. And by contrast, if he were a Minister in a democratic country like Sweden or Japan, he should be now languishing in jail and for a very long time. In Morocco, a country that presents an admix of democracy and autocracy, the man will not only be spared a legal judicial case, but it is highly probable that he’ll come back, yet again, to the political scene more perennially smiling and stonewalling in his media outburst than anytime, ever before.