A major force in Africa, Raja Casablanca have long wielded a powerful influence on the Moroccan scene, battling it out with arch city rivals Wydad Casablanca (WAC) for domestic supremacy.
Birth of an institution
Morocco was under French rule in 1949, the year Raja Casablanca was founded by resistance fighters and Moroccan trade union leaders at the Al Watan café, where they were joined by intellectuals and nationalists.
Their collective aim was to set up a team worthy of representing all Moroccans, though first of all they had to decide on a name. The two options were Raja (meaning “hope”) and Fath (“victory”), with Raja finally being adopted after being drawn out of a hat. In defiance of French law, the founders made a Moroccan the club’s first president, entrusting the position to Ben Abadji Hejji, a Muslim of Algerian extraction who also held French nationality.
Formed entirely by Moroccan players, Raja took their place in the Division d’Honneur that same year, gaining promotion to the national second division at the end of the season and then moving up to the top flight in 1951, where they have remained ever since.
Along with WAC and FAR, Raja boast one of the most impressive rolls of honour in Moroccan football. Unlike their two fiercest enemies, who operated a virtual duopoly from the 1950s through to the early 90s, the green and whites only emerged as a force to be reckoned at the end of the 80s, their maiden league title coming in 1988, nearly 40 years after the club was founded. That triumph represented a psychological breakthrough for Raja, and between 1996 and 2004 they would harvest a further seven national championships, six them on the bounce, an unprecedented feat in Moroccan football.
It was during that glorious period that Raja conquered Africa, completing a remarkable continental treble in 1999 by winning the CAF Champions League, the CAF Super Cup and the Afro-Asian Club Championship.
That achievement paved the way to an appearance at the 2000 FIFA Club World Cup in Brazil, where the African champions went out at the group stage after going down 2-0 to Corinthians and losing out narrowly to Al Nassr and Real Madrid in seven- and five-goal thrillers respectively.
Multiple winners of the Moroccan Cup, Raja have also enjoyed considerable success in Africa. Aside from their annus mirabilis in 1999, the Casablanca side have lifted the CAF Champions League on two other occasions, not to mention the CAF Confederations Cup and Arab Champions League, all won by the club at least once in their history.
Raja have won more than their fair share of trophies since the early 2000s, collecting six league titles and three Coupes du Trone (Moroccan Cups) between 2000 and 2013. The latest of those championship wins brought with it a special prize, with Raja earning a place at the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013 as the representatives of the host nation, much to the delight of their loyal and ebullient fans.
The Casablanca club have in no way been overawed by rubbing shoulders with the likes of Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich and Ronaldinho’s Atletico Mineiro. Atoning for the three defeats they suffered on their debut in the competition in 2000, Raja have enjoyed one of the greatest adventures of their history, beating Auckland City, Monterrey and Atletico Mineiro, the respective OFC, CONCACAF and CONMEBOL champions, to become only the second team from outside Europe and South America to reach the Club World Cup final.
Forming part of a major sports complex situated in the suburb of Maarif, right in the city centre, the Stade Mohamed V is home to both Raja and Wydad. Opened on 6 March 1955, it has a capacity of 60,000 and has been refurbished on several occasions over the years. In 2007 an international-standard semi-artificial pitch was installed at the stadium. Seating in the VIP and side stands was also upgraded and a new athletics track laid.
11 Moroccan League titles: 1988, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2009, 2011, 2013
7 Moroccan Cups: 1974, 1977, 1982, 1996, 2002, 2005, 2012
3 CAF Champions Leagues: 1989, 1997, 1999
1 CAF Confederation Cups: 2003
1 CAF Super Cup : 1999
1 Arab Champions League: 2006
1 Afro-Asian Club Championship: 1999
*The honours listed above are considered to be the club’s major titles and, as such, are not intended to be a full list of achievements.
Hicham Aboucherouane, Sofiane Alloudi, Salaheddine Bassir, Mustapha Chadli, Amine Erbati, Abdelmajid Dolmi, Abdelilah Fahmi, Talal El Karkouri