The Botola is finally upon us again after a long summer break. Maghrib Foot are proud to give you a team-to-team preview ahead of the 62nd season in Morocco and predict how the clubs will fare. Next up is CR Al Hoceima.
Full name: Chabab Rif Al Hoceima (CRA)
Stadium: Stade Mimoun Al Arsi (12,000)
Manager: Simon Ouaali
Position last season: 13th
The 2017/18 season was a dark chapter for CR Al Hoceima, where the only positive was surviving in Botola by a very close margin, just like the season prior. Despite finding themselves at 9th place halfway through the season, the club terminated the contract of manager Juan Pedro Benali. Since then, they only won two more games and were lucky not to go down. Nacer Sandjak, Mounir Boukhair and Simon Ouaali were all given a chance but failed to lift the performance level and a farcical win against Ittihad Tanger’s reserves who barely tried, on the last day, made them just escape relegation.
This summer however, we’ve seen some interesting development in Hoceima with a new project lead by former national team profile, Mounir El Hamdaoui. The Dutch-Moroccan was appointed as new technical director and has brought in a bunch of players from his country of birth. Abdelmalek El Hasnaoui (FC Eindhoven), Rafik El Hamdi (Volendam), Mawouna Amevor (Dordrecht), Felitciano Zschusschen (Ijsselmeervogels) and Abderrahim Loukili (Lienden) have all been brought in from the second and third tier in Netherlands while former Cape Verde internationals Guy Ramos and Toni Varela are coming in as free agents. With fullback Youssef Ouchouia acquired from FAR Rabat as well, you can say that they’ve almost signed a new team. The challenge will be to gel all of these guys together in such a short time, especially when most of them are coming from a completely different football culture.
Because these new players will have to deliver immediately, considering the fact that all of the main men from last season have left. The two goalscorers, Ayoub Mallouki and Abderrahim Makran have signed for Hassania Agadir and FUS Rabat respectively, while Youssef Benali returned to France. Mohamed Saidi (FUS), Soufian Echcharaf (IRT) and Youssef Fennich (MCO) are also solid players on this level who are now gone.
With the excessive amount of foreign signings you’d might expect CRA to improve, but we have our doubts. The club is still in political turmoil, where president Abdelilah El Hattach just resigned. They were recently sued for not paying for hotel stays in the Rif region during pre-season and have more than 10 million dirhams in debt, revealed at the general assembly in July. Local authorities have already seized some of the property and a lot of work needs to be done behind the scenes for the club to find some stability again. Before that has happened, we can’t see them making any progress on the league table.