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Sports News

Morocco include El Haddadi in squad after FIFA rule change

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Europa League - Final - Sevilla v Inter Milan - RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne, Germany - August 21, 2020 Sevilla's Munir El Haddadi celebrates with the trophy after winning the Europa League, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Ina Fassbender/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

RABAT (Reuters) - Sevilla striker Munir El Haddadi is in line to become the first beneficiary of a new rule change around international eligibility, adopted at the FIFA Congress last month, after receiving a call-up from Morocco on Thursday.

The 25-year-old Madrid-born forward, who began his career at Barcelona and helped Sevilla win the Europa League in August, played one match for Spain in 2014 when he debuted in a European Championship qualifier which tied him to the national team, even though he is also a Moroccan citizen through his parents.

But FIFA last month tweaked the rules so that players can change their international allegiance provided they are eligible to represent a second country and have played no more than three matches for one national team at senior level, with all the appearances coming before the player turns 21.

Playing at a World Cup or continental tournament also prohibits a player from switching country but appearing in a tournament qualifier – or the Nations League – would not.

Morocco tried to pick El Haddadi for the 2018 World Cup in Russia but were stymied by FIFA’s regulations, which previously allowed players to change international allegiance if they had only played at junior level or in non-competitive senior games.

However, on Thursday El Haddadi, who has not been in the picture for Spain for years, was handed the chance of a new international career when he was named among eight new players in a 26-man Morocco squad for friendlies against Senegal on Oct. 9 and Democratic Republic of Congo on Oct. 13.

Both games being played behind closed doors in Rabat.

Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ken Ferris

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