Ittihad Tanger yacht incident: Why the search for 2 missing Moroccan players extends beyond expectations

Ittihad Tanger yacht incident: Why the search for 2 missing Moroccan players extends beyond expectations

Festus Chuma 12:00 - 09.07.2024

Search for two Ittihad Tanger players continues after they went missing during a yacht trip off Morocco's Mediterranean coast.

Moroccan club Ittihad Tanger continues to face an anxious wait as the search for two of its footballers who went missing off the country's northern Mediterranean coast stretches into another day.

Abdellatif Akhrif, 24, and Salman El-Harrak, 18, have been unaccounted for since a tragic incident on Saturday during a leisure trip near the beach resort of M'diq, north of Tetouan.

The outing, which started as a routine day of relaxation for the top-flight team’s members, quickly turned disastrous.

"Everything was normal—we woke up, had breakfast, and rented a boat from the marina," Oussama Aflah, one of the rescued staff members, recounted to the local media outlet Tanjaoui.

According to Aflah, the group had even been checked by the coastguard before departure.

"We were swimming within sight of the shore and just a few metres from the boat before the sea completely changed and heavy winds took us away from the boat," he added.

Despite the swift response from emergency services, which resulted in the rescue of three people including Morocco Under-20 international Abdelhamid Maali, the absence of Akhrif and El-Harrak has perplexed and concerned authorities, experts, and the local community alike.

The club’s president, Mohamed Cherkaoui, in a recent statement, highlighted the ongoing efforts to locate the missing players.

He also urged the media and the club's supporters to be cautious with the information they share, stressing the sensitive nature of the situation.

So, why is the search for the two young athletes proving so challenging?

Several factors contribute to the complexity of this unfortunate event.

First, the dynamics of the Mediterranean Sea, known for its sudden and unpredictable changes in weather conditions, can complicate search efforts.

The area where the incident occurred is notorious for its strong currents and occasionally treacherous waters, which could displace swimmers quickly and unpredictably.

Moreover, the fact that the players were reportedly not wearing life jackets when they went swimming significantly increases the risk and expands the search area.

"The men were not wearing life jackets when they went swimming," said Anass Mrabet, the club’s deputy president, in an interview with Reuters.

This oversight means that rescuers have to consider a larger area, as the missing could have been carried farther by currents than initially estimated.

Technical challenges also play a role as the depth and clarity of the water, the topography of the sea floor, and the capabilities of local search and rescue operations can all impact the speed and effectiveness of the search.

Morocco’s coastguard and emergency services are well-trained and equipped, but the specific conditions of the sea and weather can hinder even the most proficient teams.

The community and the football world have rallied around Ittihad Tanger offering support and hoping for a positive outcome.