The Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) through its president Fouzi Lekjaa has scored big after successfully lobbying for FIFA to adjust rules governing football players switching international allegiance in a bid to get Spanish international and Sevilla forward Munir El Haddadi.
FIFA delivered a landmark ruling after approving amendments to the Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes at the organization’s 70th Congress on Friday.
In the new decision, a player who has less than three international matches for a particular country before turning 21 years will be eligible to play for another country.
The new rule however doesn’t apply for games played at the FIFA World Cup, including qualifiers and Confederation tournaments such as Africa Cup of Nations, UEFA and Copa America among others.
Therefore, if a player features for a given country at the aforementioned tournaments, they will not be considered for change of nationality.
“With the new rules just voted by the vast majority of FIFA congress participants, any player who has played a maximum of three matches during his international career for a national team, may switch to another national team if he holds the citizenship of that country while respecting other conditions.
“Among those conditions that have to be respected is that the age of the player at the time he officially represented the national team for the first time has to be Under 21, and that he stopped representing the same national team for the past three years at least,” the FRMF said in a statement.
Born in San Lorenzo de El Escorial about 45 kilometres northwest of the Spanish capital, Madrid to a Moroccan father, El Haddadi who was capped once by Spain is now eligible to play for Morocco.
A former Barcelona prodigy, Haddadi’s La Roja debut was made at 19.
The new FIFA rule also comes as a boost for Morocco’s Atlas Lions with Anwar El Ghazi, who played for the Netherlands twice, also set to switch to his parents’ country of origin Morocco.
El Ghazi is a winger who plays for premier league side Aston Villa after joining the club from Ajax last year, making 34 appearances and finding the net six times in all competitions in his debut season.
Ahead of the 2018 World Cup, Lekjaa led the FRMF in an appeal to have El Haddadi switch allegiance to the North African country after featuring for Spain in 2014.
The appeal to FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport was initially unsuccessful.
But on Friday, Lekjaa, El Haddadi and El Ghazi would have been relieved when the world football governing body took a decision to allow players that have already earned senior national team caps to switch allegiance.
The decision was ratified during FIFA’s 70th Congress which took place via videoconferencing.
A number of associations especially among the Third World countries who have a small pool of quality players are set to benefit from this landmark FIFA ruling.