Youth soccer leagues are numerous around the world. In the United States alone, an estimated 284,000 boys play soccer in high school. Even more boys and girls play soccer around the world. While it happens on occasion, most youth soccer programs in the United States don’t get to visit other countries to play friendly matches with international soccer programs. Usually, it comes down to a question of cost.
Summer soccer programs and camps are fairly popular across the world, but U18 team Port St. Lucie United from Florida recently returned from an international first. Their coach, Mohammed Jamai, is a Moroccan native and had been dreaming of taking a trip to Morocco with his team. Eight years later, it finally happened.
“This idea has been a long time coming, I’ve wanted to do it since 2010. I found some good parents who trust me and what I say and also that wants to come with us,” Jamai remarked, noting the financial strain of taking a trip spanning over 4,000 miles.
With the help of parents, the team, and the Moroccan soccer association, the trip finally came to fruition. He sought to make it a culturally educational experience that was brought together by the shared love of soccer.
“I want to show Americans that Morocco is a safe country. That our friendship with the USA is one of the oldest ones and a very good one. Maybe they will build some new relationships. I’m sure it will be very interesting,” he said before the trip.
He couldn’t have been more correct. Apart from the airfare to get to Morocco, everything else in the week-long trip was paid for in full by the Royal Moroccan Soccer Federation. And we mean everything. They played in friendly matches and small tournaments, traveled to the capital Rabat, as well as Marrakech, the whole time being hosted by Morrocan officials. During the day, they played soccer. In the evening, they visited local schools at which they donated book bags and soccer jerseys to students.
They were the first ever youth team from the United States to visit Morocco. If that’s not the trip of a lifetime, we aren’t sure what is.