Violence mars Moroccan under-21 match with Netherlands
Dutch police arrested 26 soccer fans, many of them Moroccans, during a friendly match between the under-21 teams of the Netherlands and Morocco in Tilburg on Tuesday (May 22nd). Spectators, apparently angered by the presence of Moroccans Otman Bakkal and Ismail Aissati on the Dutch team, pelted the field with seats and bottles, injuring some of the stewards. The city declared a state of emergency which allowed police to prevent fans from reaching the city centre after the match. Most were put on buses and driven under heavy escort to the local railway station, where they boarded trains.
Henk Kesler, President of the Dutch Soccer Association, said he would not schedule more friendly matches with Morocco in the foreseeable future. He went on to add that the association may impose a five-year ban on such games. According to a police report made available to reporters after the match, some of the stewards sustained minor injuries from flying objects before 100 officers moved in to restore order.
Morocco won the game 2-0, but play had to be stopped twice to remove Moroccan fans from the pitch. Dozens of fans also invaded the field after the final whistle. The rioting has upset the Dutch, who are due to host a European under-21 championship in just a few weeks. Foppe de Haan, manager of the home team, said he was shocked by the outbreak of violence. He urged the adoption of measures to prevent such incidents in the future.
Meanwhile, Morocco's Olympic team drew with Belgium 2-2 in a friendly match in El Harty Stadium in Marrakech. Ironically, the Belgian side took the lead with a 35th-minute goal by Ibrahim Maaroufi, a player of Moroccan origin. Soon after, Khalid Sbai was brought down in the penalty area and El Amrani equalized the score with a penalty kick. Iajour gave Morocco the lead with a free kick, but the Belgian side equalized with a questionable penalty.
The real test for the Moroccan Olympic team will come on June 2nd, when it will meet Botswana in the first qualifying match in Group C.
New Swiss champions FC Zurich signed 20-year-old Tunisian international Yassine Chikhaoui to a five-year contract on May 22nd. He played previously for Tunisian champions ES Sahel and was widely credited with making an outstanding contribution to the team's success in the past season. Chikhaoui revealed to reporters that he had also received offers from top French clubs Olympique de Marseille, Lens and Le Mans. He said he had decided against joining Olympique because of the fierce competition between its players for a place in the starting line-up. Chikhaoui was afraid that he would hardly play more than two or three games per season. The Tunisian player did not like Le Mans because the team had no major ambitions apart from staying clear of the relegation zone. Neither was he particularly impressed with Lens, which had offered him too little compensation to make the move worthwhile.
Lyon striker Karim Benzema scored French champions Lyon's last goal for the current championship. The French youth international of Tunisian origin hammered in a goal in the 86th minute for his team's 3-1 victory over Nantes. Lyon completed the season with 81 points, 17 ahead of second-placed Olympique de Marseille, with a goal difference of 64-27. Nantes had not been relegated in 44 years.
Also in the French championship, Algerian midfielder Samir Nasri scored the only goal in Olympique de Marseille's 1-0 victory over Sedan. Olympic will play in the Champions League while Sedan has been relegated to the French second division.
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