Hassan Akesbi (Morocco)
Portraits of legendary footballers
First broadcast date
Hassan Akesbi was born in Tangiers, Morocco, in 1935.
He joined the mythical Stade de Reims with the difficult task of making people forget Just Fontaine. He accepted the challenge,and won the France Championship that year.
Hassan Akesbi is the eleventh leading scorer of all time in the France Championship: he scored 173 goals in 293 games.
Hassan Akesbi has worn the jersey of the Moroccan team from 1960 to 1970.
SNRT - Coproduction
- COPEAM - Coproduction
Sport and games
Credits / Cast
- Haddouz Abdelhadi - Journalist
- Regragui Driss - Journalist
- France - North East - Reims
Akesbi Hassan is one of Morocco’s greatest footballers and a leading figure in the French championship from 1950-1960: he scored 173 goals in 293 games playing for the best clubs of the day. Born on May 1st 1939 into a bourgeois family and educated in Tangier, his family background did not predispose him to a career in football, let alone one would be spent in France. His father, a knowledgeable man well-versed in the Koran, did not see a career opportunity in the game his son was practising on the city’s beaches. Originally from Andalusia, the family was also heavily influenced by Spanish culture. In his youth Hassan Akesbi spoke only Arabic and Spanish. Indeed since the late nineteenth century his hometown Tangier had been fought over by the great international powers, and since 1923 had an international status as an enclave in the Spanish protectorate of northern Morocco. In 1950 it was a city of 150,000 inhabitants, with 42,000 foreigners, of whom 30,000 were Spaniards. They had their own schools, newspapers, radio and ... football clubs. It is in one of them, Sevillana Tanger, founded in 1938 by Sevillans, that the 14-year-old Akesbi began his career, playing in the regional championship organised by the Spanish League. Like many young people from that area, he dreamt of a career in Spain, indeed his club was linked to Spanish Athletic Union of Tangier which played in the Spanish second division. But it was for Cadiz that Akesbi signed his first contract. However his mother, now widowed, was opposed to him leaving the country. So, following his late father’s wishes, Hassan Akesbi went to study in Rabat, where in 1952 he signed with Fath Union Sport (FUS) of Rabat, despite the opposition of his family in Tangier. FUS was then one of the most famous clubs of Morocco, with close links to the nationalist party, Istiqlal, and to the king, whose brother was honorary chairman. Despite being physically small, 1.73 m, Akesbi revealed his talents as a striker. His reputation was made during matches in the North African championship, a competition supervised by the French football federation, which had brought together the best clubs in Algeria and Tunisia first of all, adding Morocco in 1926. This was when Larbi Ben Barek’s talent was reflecting on all Moroccan players, considered in France as the "South Americans of the Atlas Mountains" because of their technical abilities.
Akesbi was spotted by Olympique Nimes, where the Franco-Algerian Kader Firoud had been coaching the professional team since the premature end of his international playing career after a car accident. Akesbi’s arrival in the Gard was helped by a familiarity with French culture acquired during his studies in Rabat. He once said his first monthly salary was 6,500 francs, on top of a signing fee of 5,000 francs, at a time when a labourer’s average annual wage was around 4,000 francs. This social success was combined with a top-class sporting career, since Nimes was runner-up in the French league championships three times (1958, 1959 and 1960) and finalist in the Coupe de France twice (1958 and 1961). The "crocodiles" were often defeated by Stade de Reims who were then going through their golden age. Reims, five-time French league champions (1949, 1953, 1955, 1958 and 1960), and twice finalists in the European Cup (1956 and 1959) became interested in this Moroccan player who had scored 119 goals with Nimes. To replace Kopa, who left in 1959 to join Real Madrid, Reims spent five million francs (a sum that was the talk of the town) to recruit Akesbi. Playing with Just Fontaine, Akesbi won the French championship in 1962, but Stade de Reims was no longer as powerful as they had been. When the coach Batteux Albert was fired in 1963, Akesbi was loaned to AS Monaco who had just won the French league championship. Playing for them, he was again runner-up in the French championship in 1964 before returning for one season with Reims. Despite the demands and friendly pressure of Prince Moulay Abdallah, Akesbi went back to FUS for whom he played until 1970. A fracture prevented him from going to Mexico in 1970 where Morocco was playing in that year's World Cup, the first time an African country had played since Egypt in 1934.
Although his playing career is engraved in his country’s memory, the same cannot be said of his coaching career, which began straight afterwards.
Sportifs marocains du monde. Histoires et enjeux actuels. Acte du colloque international de Casablanca, 24-25 juillet 2010, Paris-Casablanca, Seguier-La Croisée des Chemins, 2011, 203 p.
Dietschy Paul, « Les « Sud-Américains » de l’Atlas : de Larbi Ben Barek à Hassan Akesbi », Migrance, 2008, p. 20-24.
Wahl Alfred, Lanfranchi Pierre, Les footballeurs professionnels des années trente à nos jours, Paris, Hachette, 1995, 290 p.
Entretien entre Paul Diestchy et Hassan Akesbi sur le site http://odysseo.org/