Officially inaugurated on 6 March 1955, Casablanca's Stade Mohamed V has firmly established itself as the principal home stadium of the Moroccan national side. But the Atlas Lions are not the only team to enjoy a venue that has legendary status across the whole of Africa. Casablanca club giants Raja and Wydad also share these spectacular surroundings while battling each other for local and national supremacy, as well as for the hearts and minds of the city's football-crazed population.
The stadium's name is a tribute to a man considered by many as the father of the modern Moroccan state: Sultan-turned-King Mohamed V Ben Youssef.
At the outset, however, the arena was dubbed the "Stade Marcel-Cerdan", in honour of the legendary French boxer who grew up and subsequently began his pugilistic career in Casablanca. The stadium, which originally had a capacity of 30,000, was renamed the "Stade d'honneur" just one year later in 1956 following Moroccan independence.
The mythical stadium really began to take shape in the late 1970s, when work was carried out in preparation for the city's hosting of the 1983 Mediterranean Games. Its capacity was increased to a massive 90,000 and the venue's sports complex, located in the heart of Casablanca, was furnished with an indoor multi-sports hall and swimming pool. The hosting of this major international event led to the stadium being officially inaugurated for a second time, whereupon it was given its current name: the "Stade Mohammed V".
As part of Morocco's bid to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, the Mohammed V was given another extensive overhaul in 2000. The lateral stands, which had traditionally housed Raja's famous magana and enjoys a similar status among Raja fans as the Kop to Liverpool supporters, were turned into seated areas in order to comply with safety regulations. This reduced the overall capacity to 67,000.
The aforementioned sports complex, meanwhile, can hold 12,000 spectators in its multi-sports hall, has an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a 650m2 media centre, a conference room, a treatment centre and an anti-doping facility.
The stadium was once again temporarily closed in 2006, which enabled work to be done on the pitch, the surface of the athletics' track to be re-laid and the modernisation of the toilet facilities and dressing rooms. It also meant that in the 2006/07 season, for the first time ever, the two league meetings between the city's two biggest clubs took place outside of Morocco's economic capital.
Raja Casablanca, who have been crowned domestic champions on nine occasions, were in 2000 placed third in CAF's ranking of African clubs of the last century, finishing behind Egyptian powerhouses Al Ahly and Zamalek. Rivals Wydad, eleven times Moroccan champions, are Raja's greatest rivals and the often-decisive matches between the two teams at the Stade Mohamed V are inevitably colourful and passionate occasions.
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