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Tottenham’s striker Ayane eyeing to play at Women’s World Cup with Morocco

As the women’s game continues to catch up in every angle of the world, there is one country who is keen on becoming a reference point in its continent.

Ranked 78th in the world, Morocco have embarked on a journey which they hope will guide them to triumph in next summer’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.

Morocco, who will host this year’s African showpiece for women’s teams, have only qualified twice for this competition – in 1998 and 2000.

Having missed out on all the editions since the 2000 event, qualifying for continental and global competitions became the top priority for the association.

Reaching at least the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations would guarantee them access to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which would be the first appearance of the Atlas Lionesses.

The Moroccan Football Federation entrusted former United States women’s team player Kelly Lindsey in the role of Women’s Football Director. Moreover, they appointed two-time UEFA Women’s Champions League winner coach Reynald Pedros.

Known for their speed and skillset, Morocco’s squad was already composed by several promising talents. They have made sure to bolster their chances of improving their squad by bringing over players with dual citizenship that were committed to the Moroccan cause.

One of them is England-born Rosella Ayane, who made her Morocco debut in 2021.

Rosella Ayane in action for Morocco. Photos: Chris Sant Fournier

Born to a Moroccan father, Ayane is currently one of the stars in England’s Women’s Super League as she is on the books of Tottenham Hotspur after coming through the ranks of Chelsea.

After representing England at youth level, Ayane made her Morocco debut last June, marking her maiden appearance with a goal in a 3-0 victory over Mali.

The VisitMalta Women’s Trophy is another opportunity for Ayane to integrate more with the rest of the Moroccan national team.

“This training camp has been a very good experience,” Ayane told the Times of Malta.

“I have never been to Malta, so I did not know what to expect but I have only positive things to say.

“The Malta FA has put us in a good place with good pitches and facilities, and I am sure this will serve us as a preparation for the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.”

The North African side launched their tournament commitments against hosts Malta, in a balanced battle that was claimed by Morocco thanks to a first-half goal.

“I think it was a very good game and a tough battle,” Ayana explained.

“The Malta team put up a very good fight, worked hard and they have some good players. It was a kind of test that we had never faced yet and I am sure that for the neutral it was very a good watch.”

One of the players Ayane rubbed shoulders with during the game was Rachel Cuschieri, with whom she was a team-mate at Cyprus club Apollon Limassol, five years ago.

Donning the colours of Morocco, Ayane has already faced the likes of African powerhouse Cameroon and Europe’s elite Spain.

The prospect of playing at international level and having the opportunity to be involved in such matchups is a source of excitement for the Tottenham Hotspur player.

“Every player wants to play on the international stage,” Ayane admitted.

“Obviously, it is a different environment from Tottenham Hotspur to Morocco, but I am pleased to be part of this movement.

“We want to do well in the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations and we are hopeful of qualifying to the World Cup as well, so this is very exciting period for us.”

For Ayane, playing for Morocco means she is under the observation of coach Pedros, who is a well-renowned coaching figure in the women’s game.

“He has coached one of the best teams and has coached some of the best players in Europe, so I am trying to absorb as much information as possible from him,” Ayane said.

The progress of the women’s game on the African continent was reflected in the inaugural edition of the Women’s Champions League for clubs, which was held back in November.

Morocco’s representatives, AS FAR, for whom several national team players feature, placed third and that might be a sign of what’s to come from the Moroccan game.

“I was shocked on my first Morocco camp to see how much interest there is in the team,” Ayane said.

“The whole of Morocco is investing in our game and that is the Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco will be very exciting. Hopefully, we will get the job done as well.”

WSL rise

Back in her native England, Ayane is in her second season at Tottenham Hotspur after spells at Bristol City and Everton that further enhanced her football qualities in English football.

“It’s exciting. It took a long time to come but this is what the women’s game deserves and the future looks bright,” Ayane said.

“Having the games broadcasted on Sky Sports and get the coverage from the media and social network is exciting for the players.

“England is fast becoming one of the best leagues in the world and every week is becoming more interesting because you get to a point where you have no idea what will happen.”

In recent years, Women’s Super League teams have started to host league games in men’s stadiums including the North London derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal which was witnessed by over 40,000 spectators at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The reverse fixture is scheduled for March 26, with Ayane’s Tottenham set to grace the field of Arsenal in another opportunity to showcase the progress of the women’s game.

Usually, Tottenham play their home games at Barnet FC’s The Hive Stadium which can host no more than 6,000 people seated. Therefore, having to switch from such environment to a big platform like the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium or the Emirates might add extra pressure on the women players as they must perform in uncharted, but well-deserved territories.

“As a player, you don’t try to think that this game is being broadcasted,” Ayane underlined.

“I played at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the North London derby in front of 40,000 people and it was amazing.

“One of our last games was against West Ham United and it was on Sky Sports – I had a penalty and at that point in time I did not think that this game was being broadcasted live.

“You realise everything once you step of the field. Hopefully, all this becomes normal for the women’s game soon.”

At the end of the day, Ayane firmly believes that the women’s game is just like the men’s and that their movement deserves the investment, the broadcasts, and the big stadiums.

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