The story of Brazilian coach Jose Faria, who converted to Islam after leading Morocco to the best appearance in the World Cup.

Report – At the start of every World Cup, Moroccans recall the glories of their team in the 86th Mexico City, when their team defeated its Portuguese counterpart and qualified for the second round. The achievement of the leader of the “Atlas Lions”, the Brazilian trainer Jose, who converted to Islam and later took Moroccan citizenship.

The Moroccan national team achieved positive results through its participation in the World Cup in Qatar 2022 and qualified for the second round of the competition. This is the ambition that the “Black Lions” coach, Walid Rekragui, expressed when he said: “We don’t want to go to the World Cup to play only three games.”

An ambition with which Regragui wants to repeat the team’s performance in the Mexico City 86 tournament, which remained immortal in the memories of the Moroccan public, when the late Brazilian coach Jose Faria led the “Atlas Lions” group to the group stage skip for the first time in the history of the team and the history of African and Arab teams.

The late Brazilian Mahdi (José) Faria is the best coach to have overseen the coaching staff of the Moroccan national team, followed by big names, because of his success in leading the Lions to their greatest achievements in the World Cup.

Morocco were the first Arab and African team to pass the group stage at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, a feat the Atlas Lions have not repeated.

The best in history

Out of 5 World Cup appearances, the 1986 team remains the best in Morocco’s history as it included two players who won the African Golden Ball award (Mohamed Timoumi 1985 and Zaki Badu 1986).

The Moroccan national team achieved an unprecedented feat in Mexico, when it topped its group, qualifying for the second round for the first time in African history, after a goalless draw against England and Poland, and its victory ( 31) in the deciding match against Portugal.

The exceptional generation of Lions almost achieved a tremendous performance, but lost in the final prize to Germany with a fateful goal, scored by star Lothar Matthaus from a direct free kick in the 87th minute.

Thanks to Morocco’s performance, FIFA decided to award Africa third place in the 1990 World Cup in Italy, before the number increased to 5 teams (currently) representing the continent in the World Cup.

Faria spent 6 years in charge of Morocco, earning him high praise until the late King Hassan II granted him special status, and his World Cup performance remained difficult for the coaches who succeeded the lions after him.

Before Faria landed in Morocco, he was associated with the football scene in Qatar. There, the club officials who oversaw his training spoke to him about Islam, its tolerance and its benefits, but the coach was not moved by it. . address. “One of the princes offered me a sum of money in exchange for converting to Islam, but I refused,” says Jose.

While settling in Morocco, Faria noticed that religion was perceived differently and manifestations of tolerance for Islam in all its meanings were embodied in it, without money or pressure, so he made the decision to become a Muslim. “I don’t hide that at that stage I met a Moroccan woman who later became my wife and the mother of my children, which greatly strengthened this choice,” adds the coach, who changed Josie’s name to Al- replaced Mahdi.

Many of Al-Mahdi’s companions wondered why he did not obtain Moroccan citizenship, such as the French trainer Henri Michel, after his achievements with the “Atlas Lions”, by decision of King Hassan II. However, Al-Mahdi stressed that the obstacle behind his failure to obtain Moroccan citizenship is that he is a retired employee of the Brazilian oil extraction company and receives a retirement pension, and to allow the situation to continue, he was obliged to Brazilian nationality.

The late King Hassan II proposed to naturalize the Brazilian coach during a reception at the Palace of Versailles in Paris, and during the return of the Guinean army team, awarded with the African Cup of Champions Clubs. There, the king distributed chocolate bars to each player , and after congratulating the delegation on the first achievement of its kind in the history of Moroccan football, he told Faria: “You are an honorary Moroccan citizen,” and invited him to his office to pay a sum of money to hand over to him. in an envelope.Faria said at the time that he had come on the basis of a petition to the king to buy a house in Rio de Janeiro.

When Hassan II summoned Faria to consult on the national team in meetings that often took place on the royal golf courses in Dar es Salaam in Rabat, the king’s classic question was: “Have you finally integrated into Moroccan society?”, with reference to his conversion to Islam and his marriage to a Moroccan woman.

Faria did not break the connection with Brazil. He had a son there by his first wife who continued to visit him, after his situation and fate became cramped, and he became a permanent client for doctors, just as he felt unfair when he revoked the degree. of ingratitude with which he was met by the football university or by the army administration. Al-Maliky, who had earlier awarded him a paltry sum of 2,000 dirhams per month, a provocative salary with which he could hardly guarantee the continuation of life.

At the end of his life, the man lived separately from his wife in an apartment in the city of Kenitra, the rent of which is paid by the Mohammed VI Foundation for Sports Champions, before the woman decided to reunite and return him to his apartment in the Agdal neighborhood. They turned their backs on him, and many of them did not even bother to offer expressions of sympathy.

From Jose to Mehdi

Coach Jose Faria’s first visit to Morocco was in 1982, coming to him from the state of Qatar, whose national team was coached for the youth category under 19 years old. He also coached Qatari club Al-Sadd, with whom he won the Sheikh Jassim Cup three times in a row and the Emir of Qatar Cup once.

In Morocco, Faria took over the reins to coach the Royal Army Club, and from his first day he made an excellent run with the team as he led them to win three of the Throne Cups. And he recorded with him a historical precedent in Moroccan football, as he managed to win the African Champions League Cup in 1985, to be the first continental title won by a Moroccan team.

While the greatest achievement of the Brazilian coach was with the Atlas Lions battalion, which he coached from 1983 to 1988, when he made it the first Arab and African team to qualify for the second round of the World Cup in Mexico 1986 qualified. , Faria established his name in the hearts of Moroccans, and he won for him their great admiration and adulation.

After this World Cup performance, the emotional ties between Faria and the country of Morocco increased, in which he decided to settle and start a family. Moreover, Faria decided to convert to Islam, and it was the late King Hassan II who chose the name “Mahdi” for him instead of his first name, Jose.

About this period, Faria says: “In Morocco, where I met a Moroccan woman who later became my wife and the mother of my children, who greatly strengthened my choice of Islam.”

In 2013, after his long suffering with illness, Jose Mehdi Faria died at the age of 80 and was buried in the Martyrs’ Cemetery in the capital, Rabat. He ended a busy football career, during which he won eight titles, and led the Moroccan national team in 52 international matches, losing only 14 of them.

“Epic” Mexico 86

The Mexico City 86 tournament was the second World Cup participation for the Moroccan national team, after the first was in 1970, in which it was defeated in all its matches in the first round. As a result, the Moroccan battalion was determined not to repeat the scenario of its predecessors, and to achieve the feat of qualifying as the first Arab and African team to the final prize round.

The draw put the Moroccan national team in Group F ahead of big international names, such as England, Poland and Portugal, so nobody was betting on them to win. In this regard, coach Mehdi Faria said: “Nobody nominated Morocco, either during the qualifying stages or the final stages, which is honestly what I wanted, that is to be outside the nominations and surprise everyone with the victory.”

The Moroccan national team managed to keep clean sheets during the first and second matches, and achieved two valuable negative draws with England and Poland. Meanwhile, the star of goalkeeper Badu Al-Zaki shone, who was the impenetrable wall in front of the attacks of stars such as the British Mark Hateley and Brian Robinson.

In the third match against Portugal, the Atlas Lions showed their fangs and managed to score two goals in the first half, with the foot of striker Abdel Razzak Khairy. The player Abdel Karim Miri, nicknamed “Karimo”, added the third goal in the 62nd minute. The match ended with the Moroccans winning by three goals to one and advancing to the next round of the World Cup. tournament guaranteed.

And according to what the Algerian sports analyst Zakaria Habchi said in his interview with TRT Arabic, “the Atlas Lions were the most prominent surprise in the 86 World Cup in Mexico, where no one recommended them to beat Portugal and draw with England and Poland don’t make national teams, even when they met Germany (the world champion in the 78 version). In the second round, they were not easily defeated by her.

This is thanks, according to Habashi, to “the human composition enjoyed by the Moroccan national team, with names such as Aziz Bouderbala, Karimo and Abdel-Razzak Khairy, who gave all their strength to defend their national shirt, and the great goalkeeper Badou Zaki, who only scored two goals throughout the tournament.”

In the second round, the Moroccan national team met its counterpart from West Germany, who won the World Cup in 1978, and despite that, the Moroccan players presented a strong game that they almost decided to win more than once , if it wasn’t for the goal of Lothar Matthaus in the 88th minute of the match, which ended the Moroccans’ march in That World Cup.

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