Inside Morocco’s most explosive derby

“The Casablanca Derby is like the Champions League final. It’s like Real Madrid and Barcelona. It’s taken really seriously,” William Jebor told SandalsForGoalposts. “It’s worshipped. The whole league waits for this moment.”

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Hold up. Monrovia-born striker William Jebor traveled all over the world. He played in leagues like Liga Portugal and the Egyptian Premier League. Yet why is he only focused on this particular setting?

“It’s a massive league [Botola Pro], massive club [Wydad AC], as the Real Madrid of Africa. Everywhere you turn you get to see new things and the people are excited about football,” Jebor elaborates.

Jebor recognizes the rich history of Wydad (and Raja Casablanca) is impressive by itself. Yet the background of the derby, a city split between two factions, and a fierce rivalry between hated rivals makes the Casablanca derby must-see television.

The heated rivalry between Raja Casablanca and Wydad AC has everything you can name. Tifos, firecrackers, brawls, and most importantly, stunning goals are all part of the Casablanca derby experience.

The Moroccan city is home to a football-related warzone. Yet its true importance: painting a city, shaping its identity, and giving it an extra layer of culture: goes unnoticed.

Wydad, Raja, and the Derby de Casablanca

From a distance, the Casablanca derby looks like a regular competitive derby. Two teams share one of the biggest cities in the world and duke it out yearly for bragging rights. The last time the two squared off, they tied at one apiece. Yet the Casawi clubs have an element of success that sets them apart from other high-stake derbies.

For the last three Botola seasons, either Wydad or Raja took home the Moroccan domestic league trophy. Yet the insane part is that, for the same time, either Wydad or Raja finished second. This year it was Wydad who became the best of Botola. Wydad and Raja are first and second in the all-time Botola table. The derby’s quality is nonpareil across Africa.

In general, the Casablanca derby creates eye-opening headlines. Hundreds of rival supporters were arrested following numerous brawls throughout the games. From their first clash(Raja’s 1956 victory), Wydad and Raja showed their class. There was this 5-1 rout and this title-deciding draw. Yet none compare to the Arab Club Championship match that saw Raja and Wydad duel each other.

Yet the most explosive derby was a 2019 edition of the Raja-Wydad derby. The match was set in the second round of the 2019-20 Arab Club Championship. The score was 1-1 going into the second leg. Wydad and Raja were stuck at one-all after halftime in the second leg. But with a stroke of brilliance, Wydad pulled away by scoring three goals with under 20 minutes left.

In a crucial moment, Raja scored twice to make the aggregate scoreline 5-4. A pristine free-kick saw Raja advance to the latter stages of the Arab Club Championship, which they ultimately won. It is an exciting game that you have to see to believe.

The Culture Surrounding Casablanca

Yet the Casawi clubs’ penchant for eye-opening games is not all there is to the Casablanca Derby. It is about how Casablanca is represented through this club. 

Raja, nicknamed the Green Eagles, was founded by nationalists. Their choice of kit color: green represents hope: is intentional. If you travel to the south side of the Stade Mohamed V, you can expect anti-government chants to echo through the terraces every matchday. They represent the working class and are proud of it.

By contrast, Wydad represents the middle class. There is a certain air of superiority at the northern end of the Stade Mohamed V. Wydad received an endorsement from then-Sultan Mohamed V.

All in all, these conflicting attitudes make for an immersive derby. Comparable to El Derbi Madrileno and Derby Della Madonnina, Casablanca hosts two hated rivals. Each has many differences and qualms with each other. Yet they may be more alike than expected.

Its Uniqueness

If you stroll through Casablanca, you will notice the port city is bathed in white. From Casablanca’s Liberty Building to the Twin Center, many Casawi buildings are painted white. You can find it everywhere: even on the terraces. Both Raja and Wydad’s kits have elements of white in their jerseys.

They are united by their love for Casa and the repressive conditions the teams were born out of. In a way, the Derby de Casablanca represents everything good(and bad) about Casablanca. Its knack for tifos and the attention-drawing brawls overshadow what really makes the Casablanca Derby so good. The fact that the culture of a city and the complex history of two clubs can meet in a stadium makes the Casablanca Derby so good.

The Author

Deolu Akingbade

An Atleti fan who loves to write!

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