Sri Lanka come out on top as north African adventure wins new fans

Click to follow
The Independent Online

There were generals and admirals and squadron leaders in the VIP box, a crowd of around 300 and a band with six-foot-long bugles saluting every four and six, as the first Morocco Cup ended yesterday with a win in the final for Sri Lanka, by 27 runs over South Africa.

There were generals and admirals and squadron leaders in the VIP box, a crowd of around 300 and a band with six-foot-long bugles saluting every four and six, as the first Morocco Cup ended yesterday with a win in the final for Sri Lanka, by 27 runs over South Africa.

The seven-game triangular did not lose a minute to rain or bad light over its 10 days. Crowds have been modest but encouraging and already there are further tournaments pencilled in for next April and August.

As well as the hundreds of locals who turned up at close of play in the hope of winning a skateboard or a mobile phone in the daily raffle, many Moroccans had been there from the start and said they were already serious cricket lovers.

Chakib Abdelfettah, a 20-year-old off-spinner from Casablanca said that he had not even heard of cricket two years ago. Now, he and his friends have their own team and get up at 4am to travel to away games in Rabat and Tangiers. "I know we are nowhere near this level," he said, gesturing towards South Africa's Allan Donald standing in the outfield. "But I think we can get there."

Said Chatt, an 18-year-old from Tangiers, said: "Our aim is to beat Australia. Why not?. When I first saw cricket, I thought it looked pretty boring. But now it's my life."

Most of the 400 young Moroccans who play the game, thanks to coaches employed byAbdul Rahman Bukhatir – the Arab mogul behind the new stadium, have been staying here throughout the tournament and have had a chance to bowl at some of the world's best batsmen in the nets. "It's very nice to see players from a football-mad country like Morocco playing cricket," Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara said. "There's a lot of room for improvement, but they have only just started. In another four or five years, though..."

Leaflets explaining the lbw law in French were distributed round town but Mr Bukhatir should not have to wait for locals to take to le crique to fill the luxury hotel and apartments he is also building on the site. The world cricket family have turned out in numbers to support the new venture.

An event arranged at short notice and given little fanfare still managed to draw supporters from Pakistan, Birmingham, London, Burnley and Copenhagen.

With the bulk of those travelling supporting Pakistan, yesterday's final was a muted affair. There has been a village-green feel to the whole event, though, the atmosphere tinged with 1950s friendliness and a sun-drenched calm. Beyond the state-of-the-art grandstand/pavilion, it has been quite possible to walk the parasol-strewn grass banks on the other three sides of the ground and talk to everyone. The feedback has been positive and the organisers cannott wait to get England out here for a tournament.

Up on the roof of the stand, broadcasting to Asia and South Africa for Bukhatir's Ten Sports, the former England captain Tony Greig looked out over the little stadium perched in the wooden hills five miles outside the city and said he had had a great time. "I'm very optimistic about Tangiers. This is decidedly better for the inaugural tournament than Sharjah was. The climate is absolutely superb. Everyone that comes here is going to enjoy it. I certainly have. There's a golf course right next door too, so... it's terrific."

An hour after Sri Lanka had wrapped up their win, the raffle prizes were still being handed out. A very large Moroccan man won a very small mountain bike, attempted to ride it away across the outfield and fell off, to the delight of massed schoolchildren.

One way and another, everyone has had a good time here this week – and there should be more to come.

Comments