Casablanca, more than a movie

Wydad Casablanca players of Morocco celebrate

The Wydad Athletic Club of Casablanca, or Wydad Al Oumma as it is better known, is one of Morocco’s most famous clubs and was created as a response to colonial-era rules that barred Moroccans from French-run establishments. Fittingly, the much-loved outfit has also won the league title a total of 17 times, more than any other club in the country’s history.

*The birth of an institution *The story behind the club’s name is certainly worth telling. The club’s founders had scheduled another meeting to resolve just this issue, only for one of their number to turn up late. When asked to explain his tardiness, the member replied that he had been watching a film starring the legendary Egyptian actress and singer, Umm Kulthoum. The film was called Wydad, meaning “love” in Arabic, and the other members were so taken by the tale they promptly bestowed the name on their new club.

The making of a legend
Wydad was founded in 1937 as a swimming club but soon after began offering other sporting activities. It was the turn of football in 1939, although fans would have to wait until 1948 to celebrate their first league title. The team brought home the North African Champions Cup the same year and went on to retain it the following two seasons.

Winning quickly became a habit for WAC, the club securing the league title a further five times over the next ten years while adding a host of other domestic honours along the way. The side’s high-point came in 1992, when they beat Sudan’s Al Hilal 2-0 over two legs to be crowned CAF Champions League winners, the third time a Moroccan club had won the coveted title, following the successes of Raja Casablanca in 1989 and FAR Rabat in 1985.

Many of Morocco’s finest internationals have come through Wydad’s ranks, most notably legendary shot-stopper Badou Zaki, who famously conceded just two goals during his country’s four games at the 1986 FIFA World Cup™ finals, the same season he was voted Africa’s Player of the Year.

*Present *The club returned to spotlight in 2010, when they won the league for a record 17th time following a four-year hiatus. Prior to their last victory in 2006 they had not held the trophy for a staggering 13 years.

Qualifying for the 2011 CAF Champions league, Wydad made it through to the group stages, only to be handed a tough draw in the form of Egypt’s Al Ahly, Tunisia’s Esperance and MC Alger from Algeria. WAC rose to the challenge and progressed through to the final, however, where they lost a closely fought contest against group-stage rivals Esperance, 1-0.

*The stadium *Wydad Casablanca share a home with bitter hometown rivals, Raja Casablanca. The Stade Mohamed V was inaugurated on 6 March1955, and has received a number of upgrades in its time, the most significant of these coming in 2000, as part of Morocco’s bid for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In 2007 a state-of-the-art synthetic turf pitch was laid, terraces were upgraded, two conference centres were built and a medical centre added. The stadium currently has capacity to seat 60,000 spectators.

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