It will go down as one of the most emotional photos at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, especially in these circumstances. A mother’s tears embracing her son, proud of what he achieved, an over-the-moon son who delivered a vintage performance only adding to his already well-versed CV, just kissing his mother on the forehead.
The setting was perfect – Morocco sealing one of their most important wins ever, 2-0 against Belgium – improving their chances of progression for the knockout phases at Qatar 2022. But for Achraf Hakimi, a star in his own making, it just meant that he could have a moment with his mother, his inspiration and rock, in front of over 20.000 Moroccan fans who were ecstatic.
But for Hakimi, the win was more than three points in the standings. It was celebrating with his family, who made so many sacrifices and worked hard to support everybody in the household. For Hakimi, it really meant that he made it, despite featuring regularly for Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, and PSG, three of the top teams in the world.
“My mother cleaned 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.
And succeed he did, with the 24-year-old becoming one of the best right backs in football, and the most expensive Arab player ever, with PSG paying $70 million for him in 2021. Yet how did Hakimi become one of the stars of football?
Born in Madrid, the Moroccan star started playing football at the age of six, at Colonia Ofigevi, a small club founded to help the development of football in the neighbourhood of Getafe, a city on the outskirts of Madrid. One year later, Real Madrid came in and snapped up Hakimi, who started to refine his style in of the best academies in the world.
His father, a street vendor, picked him up from school one day and produced a letter inviting the disbelieving youngster to a trial. He ended up joining La Fabrica, their academy, at the age of eight. “The training area, my team-mates, the whole organisation, the changing room. I felt like I was already a professional player,” remembered Hakimi.
He flourished in Real’s younger age categories teams and was close to sign for Deportivo Alaves on loan, before Real’s manager, Zinedine Zidane, asked Hakimi to stay. It was one of the best decisions Hakimi made and one that he will always be grateful for.
“He treated me like a son. The fact he asked for the deal (to Alaves) to be called off and wanted me to stay, that meant a lot. He made me the footballer I am today by giving me that chance to play with the professionals. I learned something every day. Whatever happens, I’ll always have a good relationship with him,” said Hakimi for “The Athletic”.
Despite not making the cut for Real, moving for a loan to Borussia Dortmund, and then to Inter Milan and PSG, Hakimi still remains one of the top right backs in the world. But he never forgot about Morocco, or the national team, despite being eligible to play for Spain.
His parents always wanted Achraf to play for their homeland, one they left because they could not support his family. And the circle closed on Sunday, on the “Al Thumama” Stadium, where Morocco beat Belgium 2-0 and improved their chances of success.
“We come from a modest background and my family has always struggled to earn a living,” he said. “But they gave themselves up for me. They deprived my brothers of many things for me to succeed. Today, I fight every day for them.”
“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,” said Hakimi.
In fact, it was not even a question, with scouters from the Moroccan football federation seeing Hakimi since he was 10. “I discovered him in 2010 and since then we have not lost sight of him. We have been talking with him, the technical director of the federation has traveled to Madrid. We have explained our project, which is very competitive, and he believes that he has never had any doubts,” said Rabie Takassa, Morocco’s scouter for Spain for Spanish outlet Marca.
Indeed, Hakimi pledged his allegiance to Morocco in 2016, representing the Under-20, Under-23 and the senior team in that year. Since that moment, the right back scored eight goals and featured in 56 games for his national team.
But few of them have been more emotional than the win against Belgium. And with his mother in the stands, life flashed before their eyes. It was all worth it!
Sea their special moment here: