Fatima Akif

Raising Our Game in Morocco: Interview with Fatima-Ezzahra Akif

Employment Market Women Player story

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Fatima Akif
Fatima-Ezzahra Akif, a midfielder in Morocco’s Under-20 national women’s team, is set to sign her first contract as a footballer after the national federation agreed to bankroll player wages as they professionalize the national league.

FIFPRO spoke to her about football and her hopes to pursue a career in the sport.

How did you start playing football?
I am from Casablanca in Morocco. I began playing at age 6 with friends at a local club called L'Etoile d'Avenir – the Star of the Future. I was the only player of the group who was a girl. At first it was difficult for the boys to accept me. They said: you can't play with us, you're a girl. But they got used to me. I still played with boys until about three years ago.

When did you start playing at a high level?
I have been part of the Under-17 and Under-20 women’s national team for five years. Thanks to God, we finished third in the African Games last year. We have a strong team. In football, I have already met a lot of people, travelled and learnt about life. (In January, she played in a FIFA World Cup Under-20 qualifying match against Egypt in Cairo. Morocco won 5-3. See picture above.)

What do the plans for a professional league mean for you?
I play at club level for Jawharat Najm Larache, which plays in the second division. We train four or five times a week, and matches are on Sundays. The professional league is really good news. I expect to sign a professional contract with my club in the next few weeks. It will change a lot of things. We don't have any full professionals right now, just amateur or semi-pro. This will allow us all to have a contract, top-level coaching and physiotherapy.

“My brother and sister say, never give up, don't cry, keep going, you can do anything you want”

Do you think you will be able to make a living from football?
I would like to. I finished high school last year, and am now doing a course in physical education. For now, I will carry on studying P.E. and playing football. Whenever the national team needs me, I will be there to help.

What has lockdown been like for you?
I carried playing football, even indoors. I practiced freestyle football in the living room of my family’s house. I had never done it before but I liked it. My parents didn’t mind, as long as I didn’t break anything! (In July, she entered an African freestyle football competition via video-link and won first prize in the female category.)

How do Moroccans see women’s football?
Maybe 85 or 95% of people value women’s football do but some are traditional and think women should stay in the kitchen. The attitude is changing all the time though, more and more people respect what we do. My brother and sister always give me a lot of encouragement. The say, never give up, don't cry, keep going, you can do anything you want.

Fatima Akif 10
Fatima-Ezzahra Akif, in a promotional picture before an Under-20 national team tournament