Bayern Munich reached the FIFA Club World Cup final. This was expected. What wasn't expected: their opponents will be Moroccan club Raja Casablanca. The following is everything you need to know about the people's club.
-Raja means "hope" in arabic and they actually are considered the people's club. A popular tifo display from Raja fans includes the words "vox populi," which is latin for "voice of the people." So I didn't just make that up.
-This is their second Club World Cup appearance (the last was in 2000, when they lost all three of their group-stage matches). They qualified this time by winning the 2012/13 Botola title — Morocco's domestic league — to claim the host nation exemption and join the six confederation champions. Which was handy since they didn't even qualify for the 2013 CAF Champions League won by Al-Ahly, who were knocked out of the Club World Cup in the quarterfinals. Football is weird.
-Morocco became host this year when the other bidding countries (Iran, South Africa and two-time host United Arab Emirates) all withdrew their bids. Since these are FIFA tournament bids we're talking about, we'll assume there was absolutely no corrupt backroom dealings involved in this.
-Though Raja needed a bit of help to gain entry into the tournament, they've had to work to reach the final. First they beat OFC champions Auckland City 2-1, then they beat CONCACAF champions Monterrey 2-1 in extra time, and finally they beat CONMEBOL champions Atletico-MG 3-1 in the semifinals.
-They changed managers two weeks before the Club World Cup began. This might be a source of hope for Tottenham right now.
-They have won the Moroccan league 11 times and CAF Champions League three times, all since 1988 (Raja were founded in 1949).
-The players really love Ronaldinho. Like, a lot.
-You might be familiar with the work of Raja's goalkeeper, Khalid Askri. He became known as the unluckiest goalkeeper in the world when he committed two blunders in a matter of weeks while playing for FAR Rabat back in 2010 that became YouTube hits. The first was a penalty he thought he saved, but while he celebrated, the ball spun in for a goal. The second was when his attempt to dribble away from a charging striker resulted in a goal. He responded to that by taking off his shirt and running away. In the middle of the match. He just ran away.
But with some high-profile support, he's come a long way. From FIFA.com:
“These videos made me very well-known. It was because of them that I had lots of goalkeepers from all around the world calling me to show their support, even (Gianluigi) Buffon,” Askri told FIFA.com. “I hope he saw the game (against CF Monterrey), because he would have seen a different player,” added the Moroccan, who also made a point of thanking Montpellier’s goalkeeper coach, Dominique Deplagne. “He helped me a lot at that difficult time.”
-Before the tournament began, Raja defender Mohamed Oulhaj admitted to FIFA.com that "we are the weakest team on paper," but Raja's intention was still to win the tournament. So deal with that, paper. You deal with it!
-Win or lose in the final, they will probably take all of Bayern Munich's gear as souvenirs and there will be nothing Bayern can do about it.
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