Teenager Bakkali Pondering International Future

by
Reuters
Talented teenager Zakaria Bakkali is still to make his mind up whether to play for Belgium or Morocco after being named in the Belgium squad for this month's World Cup qualifiers, Dutch media reported on Saturday.

Talented teenager Zakaria Bakkali is still to make his mind up whether to play for Belgium or Morocco after being named in the Belgium squad for this month's World Cup qualifiers, Dutch media reported on Saturday.

A decision by the 17-year-old PSV Eindhoven player has been keenly awaited and even though he was called up for the decisive qualifiers against Croatia and Scotland, Bakkali told the Algemeen Dagblad he has yet to make his choice.

"There are a lot of people supposedly talking on my behalf but I haven't decided yet. It's still a very difficult decision," said the young forward who was born in Belgium to Moroccan immigrant parents.

Bakkali has twice before been named in the Belgian squad but is yet to make his debut. If he plays in one of qualifiers he will be committed to an international future with Belgium.

Morocco did not seek to include Bakkali in their squad for a friendly against South Africa in Agadir on Friday but have a history of chasing talent from the north African Diaspora in Europe to strengthen their national side.

They persuaded Belgian-born Mehdi Carcela to play for Morocco even after Carcela won two caps in non-binding friendlies for Belgium.

Bakkali has other precedents to help his choice.

Nacer Chadli, who plays for Tottenham Hotspur, made one appearance for Morocco in a friendly against Northern Ireland in 2010 while he wrestled with the choice between the two countries before choosing Belgium.

Manchester United's Marouane Felliani also chose Belgium over Morocco.