Achraf Hakimi
Achraf HakimiReuters

Morocco’s Hakimi up against country of his birth

Hakimi could even have been on the opposite side, as he was called up when still a teenager for Spain’s junior team.

AL RAYYAN: Achraf Hakimi was born in Madrid but will have little hesitation plotting the downfall of Spain when he and his Moroccan teammates take on the 2010 World Cup winner on Tuesday.

The flying wingback is one of the key players in the north African outfit whose last-16 match in the Qatar World Cup against Spain, at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, gives it a chance to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.

Hakimi could even have been on the opposite side, as he was called up when still a teenager for Spain’s junior team.

“I felt it was not the right place for me, I did not feel at home. It was not for anything in particular, but it was not how I lived at home, which is the Arab culture, being Moroccan,” he said in the build-up to Tuesday’s clash.

Hakimi’s father was a vendor on the streets of Madrid and his mother cleaned houses.

Their son was signed by Real Madrid at the age of seven, broke through to the first team, went to Borussia Dortmund on loan, won the Serie A title with Inter Milan and is now playing alongside Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe at Paris St Germain.

And he is still only 24 years old.

It will not be the first time he plays against Spain. Hakimi was in the side that almost beat it in Kaliningrad in 2018, giving up an injury time equaliser in a 2-2 draw at the last World Cup in Russia.

“Four years of experience since have meant I’ve come with a more mature mentality,” he said.

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