A muddy soccer pitch in Rabat

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Rain. And not just rain. No it is terrible in Rabat. Between the heavy showers brightens up ‘the Moroccan way’; A world that dries up because of the wind that breaks the cloud cover and gives the sun all the space to dissipate its heat. It is Wednesday evening and with the darkness of the night the black clouds, heavy with moisture, close the view on a clear starry sky. It does not take long for Rabat to get flooded again.
“I’m going to see if we play soccer tonight.” I say it with the little conviction you have, especially here in Morocco, when it rains so hard. We would be 12 men, but unfortunately I have come home too often at these moments because hardly anyone shows up or that the ‘no’s’ poor in rapidly on our app group. The latter is not the case tonight so maybe that is the small glimmer of hope that I cherish.
When I walk on the terrain, the worst cloud break seems to be over. It is still raining. The field has big puddles. Teammates are hiding under a shelter while three are warming up and shooting the ball back and forth.
I listen to the sounds of Darija around me and sense a felling to work on the field. The guard comes out with stuff to pull the water of the pitch and I also pick one. I must smile. This image reminds me of one of the biggest debacles in Morocco’s recent football history. A completely renovated stadium Prince Moulay Abdellah had to be one of the beautiful sets for the World Cup for club teams in the first year we lived in Morocco. We even had tickets for a Real Madrid game, because our youngest is a huge fan of Cristiano Ronaldo. Even then, it was a pouring rain during a match in the preliminaries. The field gradually changed into a swimming pool. At halftime, men with equipment to pull water off the pitch, mops and buckets appeared on the field. Without the desired result. But with ridiculous images that went across the world. A riot was born. Morocco suffered tremendous loss of sight for the eye of the football-loving world. Rumors about corruption, beach sand for drainage instead of high-quality sand and so on. It cost ministers their job. And the match of real Madrid was moved to Marrakech and thus unfeasible for us to visit.
With the same enthusiasm as those Moroccan men in the stadium I try to get rid of the puddles. We only seem to have more success. And the guard of the complex adds: “If it stays dry, the puddles have disappeared.” I really wonder.
To make matters worse, the sky is bursting again and the next load of water is pouring over us and the field. We all sprint to the shelter. A strong wind does not make it any better. I wait for the signal that the Moroccans give up. Then I can go too.
Three of them shout: “Come on, let’s play. Come on. “And they add the deed to the word. They shout themselves courage when playing football. We laugh at first scornfully but then I decide to follow their example together with others. We’re here now anyway.
Soon we play six against six and against the elements. Passes die in the beauty of a puddle, the wind makes it colder than it looks, but it does not bother us. We put a delicious match on the pitch, despite all the obstacles. And the fun is even greater. Nobody renounces. I enjoy Moroccans who are playing soccer in traditional Dutch weather. There are worse ways to feel at home.
And as it should be, the rain decreases, the wind lays down and the guard has really great knowledge of his terrain. In no time the water disappears due to the good drainage of the field. I can not believe it. We play a fantastic game of football for another 45 minutes. Soaked in rain and sweat, we embrace each other just a little bit more intense as normal.
I wander home through a drying-up Rabat, relieving because stubborn stereotypes have been washed away tonight on a muddy lawn in Rabat. Even the nocturnal starry sky seems to shine and sparkle over so many surprises.

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