Two things you cannot take from Hakim Ziyech when he was a child, the bike and the ball. He was a skinny little boy obsessed with wearing shirts bigger than him. He lost control of his life during a difficult period, but someone close to him turned him into a world of stardom, to make history with the Moroccan national team in the finals. World Cup 2022.
The Moroccan national team is preparing for an important confrontation, on Wednesday, when it meets its French counterpart on the grounds of Al-Bayt Stadium in Qatar, in the semi-finals of the World Cup.
The Moroccan winger and Chelsea player made his mark with his country, with his brilliance in the past matches, and perhaps the difficult confrontations he fought were not the most difficult moments of his life, which are completely different now, than they were 19 years ago.
The beginning is in the Netherlands
Ziyash was born on March 19, 1993, in the Dutch city of Dronten, to parents whose origins go back to the city of Tafogalt, in the Berkane region in Morocco. He is the youngest of nine children.
Morocco’s talent loved football from an early age, and his father was always present at his side during his beginnings in the Real Drontin team.
The difficulty of life
Ziash’s life soon became more difficult, when his father suffered from multiple sclerosis, according to the British “Daily Mail”, which quoted his statements about that period, saying: My father was destroyed by this disease, he was unable to walk, eat and talk, and he had previously been injured. He had a heart attack, he worked hard and smoked a lot.
He added: In December 2013, the worst happened, I remember that day well, it was in the winter, my father was in bed, he was sick for some time, and he asked me to sleep that night, but I wanted to stay with him, in the end I slept on the edge of his bed with him.
Ziyash continued: Around midnight I woke up and went upstairs to my bedroom. A few hours later, around three o’clock in the morning, I heard family members crying downstairs. I went to the living room. My father died when I was a ten-year-old boy.
Ziyash was deeply affected by his father’s death, and he said in his interview with the Dutch newspaper “De Volskrant”, which was reported by the “Daily Mail”: I did not go to school after that, football was not important to me.
And the British newspaper added: After the death of his father, Ziyash got off the track completely, he was drinking, smoking and selling drugs, a person who was working in the youth category in Dronten helped him as much as possible to keep him away from this bad path, he was his teacher, father and coach at the time.
The person who helped Ziyash, Aziz Zulfiqar, was a Moroccan soccer player who was one of the first players to play professionally in the Netherlands, who later denied that Ziyash drank and smoked, saying: He had some problems in his childhood, but he did not smoke and drink during his childhood.
He added in his statements: Ziyash is my friend and brother, and he was like my little son. I have accompanied him since he was 11 years old, after the death of his father.
Zulfiqar explained that Ziyash grew up in a poor family, and was subjected to a strong shock after the death of his father, but he managed to get Ziyash out of the shock and return him to training.
And he continued: When I saw him for the first time, I immediately thought he would be a great player, and it was important that he had someone older than him who could talk to him and advise him. He was lost and wanted to leave football. I tried to get him back on the right path and became like a father to him.
He knew about the star of the Moroccan national team, his love for football and his bike when he was young. He used his bike all the time, went shopping and went out with friends, and showed it to boys and girls, and Zulfiqar added: You can take everything away from Ziyech, except for the ball and the bike.
At the international level, Ziyech was called up for the first time to the Netherlands U-20 national team in 2013, and he played 7 matches for the Netherlands U-19, U-20 and U-21, scoring 3 goals.
Badou Zaki, the former coach of Morocco, was the first to summon Ziyash when he was a star in Twente Enschede, the Netherlands, and at that time the player resisted pressure to represent the Netherlands, so that Marco van Basten, the coach of the Netherlands at the time, described his decision as “naive”.
Ziyash surprised everyone after he was a key player in the Netherlands under-21 team before choosing to represent Morocco, which prompted the legend Van Basten to criticize him violently, but fate willed that Ziyash would lead his new team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and the Netherlands would fail to rise.
Ziyash said at the time: When I preferred Morocco to the Netherlands, they said that I was a finished player who had no use for me, and whistles accompanied me everywhere. Happy to wear the Morocco shirt and the Netherlands national team no longer means anything to me, I chose with my heart.
He has 48 international matches with the “Atlas Lions”, and he could have missed the current World Cup due to disagreements with former coach Wahid Khalilozic, who was sacked and Walid Rakraki was appointed after that, who managed to return Ziyash to the national team list.
Moroccan press sources said that Ziyech donated every dollar he received since his first appearance with his country’s national team in 2015, for the benefit of poor families in Morocco.