A Morocco fan cheers on the streets of Milan after his country’s victory over Spain.
Samuel Schumacherforeign reporter
Quiz question: What do Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz (63) and Iraqi militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr (48) have in common? Definitely not much. But they agree on one point: both men have come out as fans of the Moroccan national football team. After the victory of the “Atlas Löwen” against the former colonial and current soccer power Spain, the Israeli Gantz congratulated “our Arab friends”. The Iraqi al-Sadr even saw new “hope for the Arab victory” in the surprising football result.
From Cairo to Casablanca, from Yemen to the Gulf, people erupted in cheers. Eleven footballers from the North African kingdom have sent positive uproar throughout the Arab world (although 80 per cent of Moroccans are Berbers). In the streets of the Palestinian city of Nablus, people are already jokingly saying that global joy over Morocco’s victory will end the Middle East conflict. And in Cairo, the city’s tallest building shines in Morocco’s colors.
They defend the dream of 1.5 billion people
The Kingdom of Morocco: independent of its former French and Spanish rulers since 1956, largely untouched by the Arab Spring, high on the jet-setters’ tourist wish list. The relatively small North African country is currently enrapturing the entire Arab world and uniting all of Africa behind it. As the last team from the Global South to survive in the tournament, the defense specialists from the foot of the Atlas not only defended their goal area in today’s quarter-final game against Portugal (8 p.m.), but also the dreams of more than one and a half billion people.
A huge burden – and a unique opportunity for the team, which currently has Fifa in 22nd place in the world rankings.
“Sometimes dreams really do come true,” says Moroccan-born Said Ousaadane (37), who runs the catering service Berber Food with his wife in the municipality of Obfelden ZH. “When I think about the next game, I already have tears in my eyes.” In his home country, the sensational victory made people forget all their problems for a short time, he says on the phone. “Politics, the row with the neighbors, that’s all pushed into the background. Every Arab, every African is now a bit Moroccan,” says Ousaadane.
What Morocco has learned from the football victory
That’s exactly how Hassan Soufiani (57) experienced it. He recently returned to Marrakech after 30 years in Madrid. “This win was a magical moment. Total strangers kissed on the mouth in the streets. Enemies became friends for a short time.” Pure satisfaction for his country, says Soufiani. “The footballers showed us Moroccans: if we really want to, we can do anything.”
Morocco’s football success was also a very special moment for Nicole Billi from Switzerland, who runs the Hotel Riad Be Marrakech in Marrakech. “My third daughter was born during the football game. When I was in the recovery room, the hospital staff were still cheering over in the break room.” Nicole Billi hopes that the sporting success will give Morocco a boost after the pandemic years. “It’s good for the reputation of this wonderful place. And if the positive vibes make people wonder what kind of country Morocco is, then all the better.”