Football in Morocco
Exceptional Players
Ben Barek

Those who saw him playing say: without the war, Larbi Ben Barek would have been recognized as one of the greatest players in the history of football. He had all the talents and gifts: touch of the ball, vision play, heading, dribbling, stature, and style.

Poor and orphaned at an early age, Larbi was an attacker who had a dream that he would later transfer to the field with some of the most unbelievably agile goals and passes ever seen in the football world. His success with the US Moroccan team playing with players as great as Zatelli and Janin, Just Fontaine, Chicha and the Mahjoub brothers attracted the attention of the Olympic of Marseille which he joined in 1938.

Arrived unknown during summer 38, Kohut scored at the first minute a goal laid on by Ben Barek who scored 2 more by the time, the first game of the season against Racing of Paris, was over. And what a match it was (5-2,September 4). He overwhelmed Sindelar of Austria, Sarosi of Hungary and the French selection of Veinante, Nicolas, and Heisserer.

Three months later, on the 4th of December in Naples, Larbi the-exceptionally gifted played his first game for France against Italy who were double world champions (0-1). The team of France at the following game thrashed Poland (4-0, January 22.1939), he offered a goal on a plate to Zatelli with this comment: "Here for you, Mr Mario..."

Larbi was held in high esteem, and enjoyed tremendous respect that, when his club stade de France wanted to transfer him to Atletico of Madrid in 1948, a French journalist wrote “Sell the Arch of Triumph or the Eiffel Tower, but do not sell Ben Barek”. Larbi left France and played for the prestigious Atletico of Madrid.

There, he formed with Herrera the deadliest attacking force in Spanish football history and rediscovered the path to the net, scoring 9 goals during his second game against Racing Santander, 56 goals in 113 appearances before he sealed his spell at Spain with two Champion titles 1950/51.

At the ripe old age of 40, he played the 1954 French Cup final with the O.M. A few months later, (October 16,1954) France faced in Hanover Germany the new world champion, who they ripped apart, beating them 3-1 with Larbi who played for France for 15 interval years. Exceptional longevity due without any doubt to a very healthy way of life, where alcohol and the tobacco were shunned. At the time of his return to Marseilles (1954-56), he lived in Périer Boulevard and walked everyday to the Vélodrome stadium for his training sessions. He never refused a snap shot or a word of encouragement from his fans. In 1992 September 16th, the Black Pearl died in Casablanca.

Larbi Ben Barek carried the torch of legends during his time with Olympic of Marseilles, Atletico of Madrid and French national team. He carried it with grace, dignity and a great love for the game. In return the Moroccans and footballing World legends such as Pele, who offered him his famous number 10 shirt, had taken Larbi Ben Barek into their hearts forever. And it goes without saying that Ben Barek was without any shadow of doubt - the definitive footballing genius.

Thanks to Ahmed.

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