Women's basketball experienced a historic day last Wednesday, when the Moroccan women's national team played against Israel in a friendly match that is part of the sports cooperation programme implemented in the process of diplomatic normalisation between the two countries.
This restoration of relations between Morocco and Israel is within the framework of the measures proposed in the "Accords of Abraham", a project supported by the former Donald Trump Administration, which aims to normalise governmental relations between the Jewish State and various Arab countries.
It was the first time an Israeli basketball team had faced an Arab team in their country. The Moroccan team won 62-58 in a thrilling match in a gymnasium in Salé, near Rabat. The game was attended by some 200 spectators at the invitation of the local federation, many of whom were young Moroccan basketball players.
Relations between the two countries are improving day by day, and the result of this is the agreement that the Royal Moroccan Basketball Federation (FRMBB) and the Israeli Basketball Association (IBBA) signed last Tuesday in Rabat, in the presence of Hamane Niang, president of the International Basketball Federation. The agreement provides for the organisation of tournaments, friendly matches and a programme allowing the participation of Moroccan coaches in training courses in Israel.
Despite the political background of the situation, the president of the FRMBB, Moustapha Aourach, said: "We are here for sport and sport alone. Our aim is to improve the level of our basketball. There will be other games in other categories," he told AFP microphones. His Israeli counterpart backed him up: "It's not a secret, there are many sensitive points in relations with Arab nations, but we are not politicians, we are here to play basketball".
And it seems clear that all these rapprochements are the result of improved relations between the two countries, channelled through what the Moroccan Minister of Education and Sports, Chakib Benmoussa, has called "sports diplomacy", endorsed in turn by the Moroccan people themselves. Wednesday's match went off without protest, adding to the absence of mass criticism following the successive steps being taken towards normalisation of relations with Israel.
It was Donald Trump himself who in the last months of his term in the White House began to cement this transformation that is now bearing fruit in the Middle East, something that underpinned Morocco's thesis regarding its sovereignty over Western Sahara.
The culmination came with the signing and establishment of the 'Abraham Accords' on 13 August 2020. As a result of this alliance, various plans have been developed for the development of the two countries. In April of this year, a series of cooperation projects have been developed between the two countries, involving alliances in the areas of aerospace, cybersecurity and construction.
With the first of these, the aim was for the two countries to work together on new projects in the field of aviation, with the creation of an aerospace research and development centre. The two sides signed the agreement as a further sign of their growing cooperation.
In cybersecurity, the pact sought to advance Morocco's and Israel's operational collaboration, research and development in R&D and the exchange of information and knowledge, in what was the first agreement sealed in the field of cyber defence since the establishment of rapprochement between the two countries.
Sport has been the last channel through which the agreement between them and the diplomatic improvements have taken place. This match will go down in the history of Moroccan and Israeli basketball as the start of a mutually beneficial relationship in which sporting activity can serve to seal the governmental agreements that are reached.