Tragedy-hit Morocco bouncing back
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In the discussing and reporting of football, hyperbole is everywhere. Defeats are described as ‘tragedies’, surprises ‘miracles’; rarely do the events justify such vivid language.

Hicham Dguig’s story represents a notable exception. When the Morocco coach speaks in hushed tones about “a drama”, it is has absolutely nothing to do with surrendering a 3-0 lead to lose 8-3 against Panama in their Thailand 2012 opener. These words instead relate to a genuine tragedy: a car crash in early September that left two of his players dead, and Dguig himself badly injured.

"It changed our lives forever," said the coach, whose movements are still affected by the wounds he sustained. "We were close to death. For me and others involved that day, it’s a real miracle that we’re alive today and are able to stand, walk and have a normal life, never mind play sport. We survived, thank God. But sadly those two players – one of whom was a real pillar of my team – did not."

Inevitably, the physical and mental after-effects had a major impact on Morocco’s preparations for Thailand 2012, and their second-half collapse against Panama perhaps alluded to the problems encountered. Yet this horrific incident has also afforded everyone in the squad a sense of perspective when it comes to the importance of winning and losing football matches. Dguig, for one, clearly sees the bigger picture.

For me and others involved that day, it’s a real miracle that we’re alive today and are able to stand, walk and have a normal life, never mind play sport.
Hicham Dguig on the fatal car crash

"We must remember that participating in a World Cup is a dream for every player and coach,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to face the best teams, which will help us to improve the level of our game. It also represents a great opportunity to make friends and meet people from around the world – these events represent the spirit of sport."

Even at this stage, advancing from a section that also includes two futsal heavyweights in Spain and Iran looks to be a forlorn hope. However, Dguig will head for home a happy man if Moroccan futsal benefits from the high profile their Thai adventure is receiving.

"Our compatriots are aware of the importance of this World Cup,” he said. “They know that we came here to put Morocco on the futsal map, and some of them have even travelled all the way to Thailand to support us. Morocco is already a great football nation, and we want futsal to win their hearts too.

"I have heard that people back home have been following our team since we arrived in Bangkok, and that’s a very good thing for us to know. In our next games, we will ask our players to overcome their lack of experience by showing fighting spirit and determination. We don’t want to disappoint them.”

Win, lose or draw, there seems little chance of that. Nguig has already shown just the qualities he seeks of his charges merely by being here.