Moroccan Football Squad’s Magical World Cup Journey Continues
Morocco players celebrate with their supporters after they won the Qatar 2022 World Cup quarterfinal football match between Morocco and Portugal at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha on Dec. 10, 2022. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images)

Moroccan Football Squad’s Magical World Cup Journey Continues

The team’s wins inspire millions in the Arab world and Africa

Great joy is sweeping the Arab world, as Morocco’s Atlas Lions stunned the world of football, or soccer, with a brilliant display of victories. Morocco this week reached the semifinals of the World Cup 2022 after stunning wins over heavyweights like Belgium, Spain, and Portugal in the quarterfinals on Saturday – becoming the first African Arab team to reach the semis.

The Moroccan squad, led by Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi, is the first African squad to reach the semis since Nigeria in 1998. Shortly after the referee blew his whistle, ending the match, millions of Arabs throughout the Middle East, in Europe. and the US flocked to the streets to celebrate the Atlas Lions’ historic win.

The London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat’s front-page headline proclaimed: “Morocco wins … and distributes happiness.” A photo of Qatar Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is displayed happily hugging his children after the match, celebrating the result.

Setting aside political differences and certain tribal rivalries, many Arab families sang and danced together, waving the green and red Moroccan flag among myriad Arab flags after the win on Saturday night. The win sparked massive celebration throughout the Arab world.

Coach Walid Regragui, the Parisian born son of immigrant parents, had played for Morocco’s national team. He made history of his own as the first African coach to take a team into the World Cup quarterfinals. He’s hailed as a hero, and many say this shows that Arab managers and coaches are qualified to compete at the highest level.

The first World Cup in the Arab world began with a shock, as Saudi Arabia upset Argentina in a first-round game, setting off the first wave of jubilation in a region lacking a soccer giant. This was followed by Tunisia beating France 1-0, topped with the historic stunner: Morocco upset Portugal on Saturday.

Abdeslam Chamakh, a Moroccan journalist at Hespress online news outlet, watched the match in the capital Rabat with his colleagues from the sports department. He observed: “The Moroccan national team was playing for the finals from the beginning and not only to reserve a seat for the second round.”

Chamakh told The Media Line that the Atlas Lions, “since its first matches, enjoyed wide sympathy and encouragement from the Maghreb brothers [Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya]; the Arabs [the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and all the Gulf countries], and other Islamic countries, and of course from African countries and peoples.” Chamakh adds that Morocco represented the “pride” of the Arabs and was able to demolish several “preconceptions that were usually associated with Arab and African participation.”

This miraculous run is being celebrated by Arab children of all backgrounds who have never witnessed an Arab team reach the WC semifinals. “Arab children no longer need to idolize foreign players, or wear the jerseys of Messi, Rinaldo, Mbabi,” Amal, a mother of four and a social worker, told The Media Line: “They now have En-Nesyri, Hakimi, Ziyech, and many others to imitate.”

A 13-year-old Egyptian boy named Ashraf watched the match with his parents at a cafe in Doha, Qatar. He told The Media Line that he started to cry when the referee blew his whistle announcing the end of the match, and the Atlas Lions’s victory: “I couldn’t believe it! I like Cristiano Rinaldo, but I love Hakimi more,” a joyous Ashraf declared.

The Moroccan team has an entire nation united behind them, Mounir Mohiedin, a Palestinian teacher from Bethlehem, told The Media Line. “Mabrouk [congratulations] to our Moroccan brothers, and to the Arab nation, and let this be a lesson to Arab governments and those who signed off on Arab unity that it’s well and alive.

“They’ve achieved what every Arab dreams of. What this Moroccan team achieved so far is a miracle. Morocco was expected to crumble in the face of the world’s soccer powerhouses,” argued Fahad, from Kuwait, who’s attending the WC events in Doha.

Kuwait’s national soccer team qualified once for the World Cup competition in 1982, and its has never made it back to the big dance. “I’m so happy, I feel as if my team won,” Fahad told The Media Line. “I’m Egyptian and I support Morocco,” an Egyptian in Cairo echoed. Mansour says he watched the game at a local café, and everyone supported the team. “They showed the entire world that Arabs can compete and win,” he explained.

“I am happy and proud to see an Arab team win, and with it lift the spirits of millions,” said Suha Awad, 32, a Palestinian in Ramallah out watching the match with her husband and two children. “They made us believers in them and in ourselves,” Awad told The Media Line.

“The main reason behind their success is their non-surrender spirit, and their self-belief, and most importantly their teamwork. There’s a lot that can be learned from them,” insisted Najeeb, a cafe server in Amman, Jordan.

At GTV SPORTS+, the three panelists couldn’t hide their happiness – high-fiving, pump-fisting, and hugging each other, with one commentator raising his arms screaming “yes,” while his colleagues holding up his arms and shouting the word “Africa.”

An African fan named Bro Mirical Afegbua wrote: “The dream for Africa continues. Morocco played their soul out in this tournament. They played like they wanted the win. Bad luck Portugal and Ronaldo.” Immanuel Nyarkoh, another African fan, wrote: “We are indeed very happy for our African brothers. … Kudos, Morocco.”

Mustafa Osman, a Sudanese from Khartoum, told The Media Line that his “heart is overflowing with pride and happiness. Never in my entire life had I thought I’d see an Arab or African team get to this stage. What Morocco did today was a great joy, we all needed it to have some hope. They have exceeded all expectations and made all of us believe.”

The Atlas Lions resumes its magical run against cup holder France on Wednesday night, setting the former colony against its former colonizer. “Morocco was able to unite the Arab countries in one row,” says Chamakh. Everyone put aside their political and diplomatic differences and trusted this wonderful generation, which gives an honorable image to the Arabs in the international arena. We are thirsty to go to the final and face Argentina – and why not win the World Cup?”

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