Hardened concrete ripping through his thin socks, the only barrier between his feet and the pavement, Anwar Sbiyaa scores three of the seven goals for his team. Sbiyaa, a 20 year-old local of Sbaa Rouadi, a rural village in Morocco, plays with a group of American college students facing off against a team of local Moroccans from his neighborhood.
Sbiyaa’s love and dedication to soccer is what led him to think that the game could be his gateway out of the village’s streets. Unfortunately, circumstances have not led him to the path he envisioned. Sbiyaa says that it is his fate to face his dream unlived.
“I’m thinking maybe to get into a soccer sports club, but unfortunately this is not possible, because there is not much support,” he said. “No materials, no money, no transportation.”
Sbiyaa had several opportunities that seemed promising, but lack of funds continuously proved to be his strongest obstacle.
One possibility was the game, “The Golden Foot.” After getting selected and moving to the second round of the competition in Meknes, Sbiyaa learned that The Golden Foot was not the glistening opportunity he had hoped for.
“It became very corrupted. People were paying money for their kids to be selected,” he said. “I couldn’t pay to be selected but other players who were less skillful than me got selected because they could pay the money,” Sbiyaa said.
The more opportunities he received, the less money he had to employ them. He continued to participate in more games, which got him selected for the Maghreb Association Sportive de Fez (MAS), one of Morocco’s top soccer teams.
“It gave me self confidence that I could still go further and become a professional football player. A good player, not like any amateur,” he said. “I couldn’t go because I didn’t have the money…I understood that my family couldn’t help me, that I couldn’t do anything. That’s my destiny.”
There is an underdevelopment of sports in developing countries. The lower investment that is put into sports decreases the potential for athletes to build on their talents, according to Sport and Development.
On the contrary, employment of athletes and sports competitors in America is expected to grow 22%, from 2010 to 2020, which is faster for the average of all occupations, according to the United States Department of Labor.
Similarly, while a typical athlete in America would look towards an athletic scholarship in higher education, Sbiyaa does not have the same advantages. Due to the distance between the rural village and the larger city, it is difficult to access tertiary schooling.
Not only that, but in Morocco as a whole, education levels are relatively low, according to Innovation for Poverty Action. In Anwar’s case, he could not find the means to make his way to one competition. Traveling back and forth to school every day or paying tuition to live on campus would be even more difficult, because the money to do so is simply not there.
Yet, with all these obstacles counting against him, Sbiyaa continues to love the game.
“Whenever I play, I never want to lose. You can see that by the way I was playing in my socks. I’m injured now. I’m bleeding. Because I love the game. I love soccer.”