VALENCIA: At international and club level, the past few years have been pretty memorable for Valencia and Morocco star Selim Amallah.

The 27-year-old joined the La Liga team on loan from Segunda Division club Real Valladolid in the summer of 2023, having been part of the Moroccan squad that reached the semifinals of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

On Monday night the Belgian-born midfielder will be part of the Valencia team, currently eighth in La Liga and led by club legend Ruben Baraja, that will take on Barcelona at Estadi Olímpic Lluis Companys.

Amallah is delighted with the way things have worked out for him.

“I’m thrilled to be playing in Spain because it’s one of the best leagues globally,” Amallah, fresh from a practice session at Ciudad Deportiva de Paterna, Valencia’s state-of-the-art training complex, told Arab News.

“It’s a league I wanted to play in and I’ve succeeded,” he said. “I anticipated more playing time initially,” he added. “I recognize the invaluable learning experience this season has offered. Frankly, I’m very happy to be here.”

While historically many players from North Africa have thrived in La Liga and other European leagues, very few from the Middle East or Gulf states have even attempted to make that leap.

Amallah feels more Arab players should make that move, not just to experience new sporting challenges and cultures, but primarily to succeed as professionals on the pitch.

“Yes, of course, I believe making history in a championship or for your country is something you aspire to achieve, and it’s one of my goals,” he said.

Without question the highlight of Ramallah’s career to date was Morocco’s incredible march to the semifinals of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Along the way, the Atlas Lions defeated Spain and Portugal, before losing out to France, who were defending world champions.

“It was truly incredible,” said Amallah. “These are memories that I believe will last forever. None of us expected to reach such a remarkable level. We also demonstrated that Moroccan players and our clubs can compete at the highest levels of football. We take immense pride in representing our country.”

Part of the experience in Qatar was the overwhelming support that teams from Arab countries received, with members of various communities uniting to support the regional teams.

“It was an immense source of pride, as our support extended beyond just the Moroccan people to encompass all Muslim communities,” said Amallah. “We took great pride in demonstrating the significant presence of Muslims in football, proving our ability to not only inspire pride among Moroccans but also among the entire Arab and African world through our dedication on the field.”

After the euphoria of Qatar 2022, there was more good news for Morocco when the country was named co-host of the 2030 World Cup alongside Spain and Portugal.

But before the football world showpiece, Amallah said that he and his colleagues will be eyeing more success on the pitch.

“I believe there’s still more for us to prove and demonstrate that Morocco remains a force to be reckoned with,” he said. “We have an exceptional team with talented players, and while the expectations may have risen, we’re determined to rise to the occasion and give our all to represent our country.”

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