FIFA rejects El Haddadi bid to switch to Morocco from Spain

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GENEVA — FIFA has rejected a request from the Moroccan soccer federation to let Munir El Haddadi change nationality from Spain despite easing its eligibility rules last month.

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The decision can be challenged by Morocco and the player at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, soccer’s world governing body said Thursday.

Any appeal would be the second for Morocco and El Haddadi against FIFA at sport’s highest court. They lost a previous ruling weeks before the 2018 World Cup – a case that was a factor in FIFA revisiting its national eligibility rules for players.

Two years ago, FIFA’s rules bound El Haddadi to Spain because he had played a single competitive game for the senior national team. As a 19-year-old Barcelona player in 2014, he was a late substitute in a European Championship qualifying game.

FIFA’s member federations voted last month for relaxed rules to help players with multiple nationalities switch allegiance. El Haddadi was born in Spain and has Moroccan family ties.

The conditions include that: a player appeared no more than three times for a senior national team; none of those games was at a major tournament; at least three years have passed since playing for the senior national team; the player did not represent his first country after turning 21.

Morocco called up El Haddadi last week to play in two friendlies during the current international period, including against Senegal on Friday in Rabat.

The Sevilla forward’s appearance for Spain’s senior team is no longer a barrier to his intended switch.

However, there is an issue with his games for Spain’s Under-21 team in European qualifiers after he turned 21 in September 2016.

The new FIFA rule requires “at the time of being fielded for his last match in an official competition in any kind of football for his current association, he had not turned 21 years old.”

Since FIFA made its ruling last month, El Haddadi posted a clip on his Twitter account expressing thanks to Spain and looking toward the Morocco flag.