After just two years in the Spanish Primera Division, Abdelaziz Barrada is already starting to make a name for himself. His arrival in Getafe in 2010 may have raised a few eyebrows, but 2013 could be the year he truly makes his mark for both club and country.
While hoping to be included in Rachid Taoussi’s Morocco squad for the forthcoming CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Barrada is currently making waves in La Liga and has helped Getafe to a deserved seventh place in the standings. FIFA.com caught up with the midfielder to chat about his career to date and the challenges ahead.
In person, Barrada is softly spoken and prefers not to talk about his footballing ability, simply describing himself as “a humble, hard-working person who makes an effort to do things right”.
In summer 2010, Barrada left his native Paris and ventured to southern Madrid for a trial at Getafe. “I wanted to try something different. I was very attracted to Spain because the style of play suits me. Apart from that, I wasn’t interested in playing in the French second division. I wanted to try it here and I’m very happy with the decision I made.”
Once at the club, the arrival of Luis Garcia as coach changed the course of his career. “I’m so grateful to him because he promoted me to the first team and gave me a lot of confidence. I owe everything to him,” Barrada said.
The 23-year-old has grabbed the opportunity with both hands. In the 2011/12 campaign he made 25 appearances, scoring four times. After starting the current season superbly, his form has tailed off of late, something Barrada is determined to rectify. “I can do much more and I’m working hard to consolidate my place in the team.”
The gifted central midfielder, who is an avid admirer of Zinedine Zidane as well as being a Real Madrid fan, has the knack of arriving at the right time and also has a good eye for goal. Barrada is keen to utilise his talents to achieve one of his main aims: “I want to win a title with my national team because defending my country is something very special.”
Challenge in South Africa
His first attempt at doing so was at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament at London 2012. However, Morocco were eliminated in the group stages alongside Spain, with Japan and Honduras progressing to the knockout rounds. “It was a very good experience in spite of everything,” Barrada said. “I enjoyed the tournament a lot and I scored my first competitive goal for Morocco [against Honduras]. It was a shame we couldn’t manage more than a 0-0 draw against Spain. I was really up for that game and we had some great chances,” he said, smiling.
Barrada is confident of adding to his four senior caps at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in January. The Atlas Lions have been drawn in Group A against Cape Verde, Angola and hosts South Africa. “In the Africa Cup of Nations there are no big or small teams. Every side is difficult and it’ll be even tougher going up against the hosts,” he said.
“We’ll travel there aiming to cause a few surprises. We have a lot of players with a great deal of experience in Europe, so I think the potential is there,” Barrada added. “But we need to take our task seriously and fight hard in every match. Personally, I find it very difficult to play in Africa. My style of play, which is very technical, suffers when the pitch isn’t in good condition. That’s how we play in the national team too: keep the ball on the ground, work well and put together some good moves. I think the high-quality South African stadiums, inherited from the 2010 World Cup, could benefit us.”
Brazil on the horizon
Apart from furnishing the winners with the African ticket to the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013, the tournament will also gauge where the team currently stands. With the next 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifying matches coming up in March, the experience will be crucial.
For the time being, Morocco are in third place in Group C behind Côte D’Ivoire and Tanzania after drawing their two opening fixtures. The results spelled the end of Eric Gerets’ reign, with Taoussi stepping in to fill the void. “He’s given us a lot of confidence. He hasn’t made big changes yet because the calendar hasn’t given him time to be drastic. But the Africa Cup of Nations will be a great opportunity for him to get his project underway and to settle us down us as a group,” Barrada said.
“We’re two points behind Côte D’Ivoire. It won’t be easy but we hope to be able to turn things around. We’re going to fight and do everything possible to be there. It’s what our fans are dreaming of and we want to make them happy,” continued Barrada, whose own first memories of a FIFA World Cup are from France 1998, the last time Morocco qualified for the finals. “I experienced that World Cup up close as it was in Paris. Even though I was small, it was wonderful to be part of that party. At home we watched all of France’s and Morocco’s matches, my two countries,” he said.
Barrada is hoping for another first-hand experience the next time Morocco reach a FIFA World Cup™, albeit this time on the pitch rather than on television. Given his hard-working nature, that dream may just come true.