Each matchday programme, we will be asking one of our overseas players to talk us through the game in their country. This week, Noureddine Naybet guides us through the world of football in his homeland of Morocco...
There was a glint in the eyes of Noureddine Naybet when he was asked to reveal his first footballing love.
The club in question, as the veteran central defender quickly responded, is Wydad Casablanca, one of two giant clubs in the economic centre of Morocco. Also known as W.A.C Casablanca - Wydad Athletic Club - they are Morocco's most successful footballing force, with over 20 domestic titles on their roll of honour. Wydad are also eight-times winners of the Kings Cup and won the African Cup of Champions in 1992.
The now 35-year-old began his career with his boyhood favourites before extending his horizons to Europe in 1993 when he switched to Nantes for one season before spending two with Sporting Lisbon. In 1996 he joined Spanish club Deportivo La Coruna before arriving at the Lane at the beginning of last term.
It was his allegiance to Wydad that, he reflected, made it all the more special when he came to play for them.
"My team was Wydad Casablanca and they are the best team in Africa!" he insisted, although they are not current Moroccan champions, with FAR Rabat from the capital holding that honour. "They have had the most championship wins.
"I started my career with them and got to play with the team I followed as a small boy. I joined them when I was 14 or 15 and remember it now as if it was only yesterday.
"It was good to play for the team you support because when you play it is a great sensation and the club is in your heart.
"It is the biggest team in Morocco and they play in front of massive crowds - a minimum of 50,000 every game. In our derby game - like Arsenal and Tottenham - there are 100,000 people there. They are the two best teams and the derby is fantastic."
The other team in the derby dates are Raja Casablanca who share the Stade Mohammed V with Wydad. Raja have been pretty successful themselves over the years with eight domestic titles - six in a row from 1996 to 2001 - four Kings Cups and three triumphs in the African Champions League.
Two players stand out for Noureddine from his younger days but neither of them played for his beloved Wydad.
"I have memories of great Moroccan players, people like Dolmi and Timoumi. They were my heroes and they will go down in Moroccan history. They were fantastic players who played in midfield - fantastic."
Mohammed Timoumi gained full international honours within a year of making his debut for FAR Rabat and goals from his favoured left foot helped Morocco win gold at the 1983 Mediterranean Games. Timoumi, was a member of the Morocco team who became the first African side to qualify for the second stage at the World Cup finals in Mexico 1986.
Abdelmajid Dolmi was also part of the 1986 vintage and Noureddine's admiration is justified by him being described in a guide to Moroccan football as ‘probably the best midfielder in the nation's history’. Born in Casablanca, he played most of his career for his hometown club Raja and was only 17 when he was called up to the national team squad - staying there for the next 18 years.
While Noureddine feels the quality of the Moroccan league has diminished with players seeking to play in Europe, he insists his country possess a crop of players who could realise the dream of once again performing on the World Cup stage.
"Maybe now the football in Morocco is down a little bit as most good players go abroad to play," admitted Naybet, who recently announced his retirement from international football after captaining his country and winning 109 caps.
"I have played with four generations of players in the Morocco team. It has been different, I have played with experienced players and I have also been the one able to help players with less experience as I got older.
“We now have some younger players with grand futures like Youssef Safri (Norwich), Youssouf Hadji (Rennes) - the brother of Mustapha who used to play for Aston Villa - Marouane Chamakh (Bordeaux), Talal El Karkouri (Charlton) and Abdeslam Ouaddou (Rennes). The Moroccan team have good players.”
The World Cup is a dream for the people in Morocco.