Achraf Hakimi walked towards the ball, took a deep breath out, took a measured run, and went for the middle. Boom. Goal. Game over. And he does a waddle in celebration with a big smile as he awaited his team-mates to mob him. A day before, he had said Spain should be afraid of them as they were group leaders. His coach had said they don’t care what Spanish media has to say about them; they are confident. In the end Hakimi and his men walked the talk.
He already has a viral moment at this World Cup when he kissed his mother after the 2-0 win over Belgium. She was waiting for him on the sidelines, with a Moroccan flag around her. She would plant a kiss on his cheeks, and he would kiss her forehead. He would then remove his jersey and give it to her. The heartwarming picture did rounds on the social media.
There is a touching story behind it. Saida Mou, Ashraf’s mother, used to clean houses in Spain to try provide a decent life for her son. Her husband was a street vendor. Football will change their lives; Hakimi would marry a talented Spanish actress Hiba Abouk, both featured in Vogue cover just couple of months. But it all started in the impoverished streets of Madrid.
“My mother cleaned the houses and my father was a street vendor. We come from a modest family that struggled to earn a living. Today I fight every day for them. They sacrificed themselves for me. They deprived my brothers of many things for me to succeed,” Achraf Hakimi once told Bundesliga.com.
It was because of his parents that Hakimi, who was born in Madrid and could have played for Spain, chose to turn out for Morocco.
One day when he was 7, and already impressing at his club, a letter arrived at their home. His father was stunned to see that it was from the famed ‘Los Blancos’, the Real Madrid club. Hakimi didn’t believe it initially; “I thought it was a lie, that my father was pulling my leg.”
Soon, they offered him a contract; life began to turn for good but then, years later with his parents still toiling away, and he was about to play for Real Madrid, FIFA would ban him in 2016.
He would come under their under-age non-spanish players investigation despite being born in Madrid and played all his life at Real Madrid reserve and youth teams.
In the end, his case would be thrown out. Rabie Takassa, a player scout involved with Hakimi, would tell Bleacher report: “I think FiFa was only checking rare names from immigrants more than where the boy was born, which is what happenned with him – they saw a Moroccan name and he was punished without deserving it.”
Post the hiccup, he would come under the wings of the Brazilian left-back Marcelo Vieira at Real Madrid. In 2017, he would play for the senior team. Later loaned to Borissa Dortmund, he would star, helping them win the German Super Cup and win the African youth player of the year for two years in a row. After a stint with Inter Milan, he would play at PSG when Messi came calling.
“Building a technical relationship with him is easy! I give him the ball, I run and he will put it where it belongs! (Laughs) I was surprised by the way he behaved, he is simple, quiet … what can I say? A dream for me! I played with many great players and the only one I missed was Messi! I am proud to evolve with such a good footballer. To progress, I will pay attention to how he trains, how he plays.”
Before and after every game he either calls or meets his mother. At Russia 2018 world cup too, there is a picture of his mother kissing him after a game.
“But I was never in need, my parents gave everything they could to my brother, my sister and me,” Hakimi once told Marca newspaper. “They sacrificed for us, learned a new language to give us the best possible childhood.”
On his decision to play for Morocco, he told Vogue, “In Paris you play for the team of the city, but it’s not the same to play with the team of your country,” he explains. “Millions and millions of people are going to support you because you play for them. It’s like you play for your grandfather and their grandfathers. You play for a lot of people, a lot of Moroccans.”