Even though their squad narrowly missed making it to the World Cup final, Moroccans celebrated their team’s historic journey on Wednesday even though it came to an end with a 2-0 loss to the reigning champions France.
“They played a great game but luck wasn’t on our side,” said supporter Oussama Abdouh in Casablanca.
“Still, we stood up to the title-holders, that was great.
“Beyond the World Cup, this team made us dream until the end, and just for that, I raise my hat to them.”
But the 2-0 loss against France was too much for Hakim Salama.
“We missed the opportunity of the century,” he said.
The Lions of the Atlas, the first Arab or African team to ever reach the World Cup final, were in danger of losing on Wednesday night as rain battered the Moroccan capital Rabat and the excitement of their historic triumphs was far from the air.
The drums and automobile horns weren’t as loud this time.
“The national team has been performing miracles since the start of the World Cup,” Rachid Sabbiq, a street trader in the working-class Derb Sultan district of Casablanca, said before the match.
“It doesn’t matter whether they win or lose — they’ve won the respect and admiration of all Moroccans, and that’s priceless,” he said.
Sabbiq had switched from selling Moroccan flags to his usual fare of sweets.
Despite the defeat, the team’s leader King Mohammed VI sent “warm congratulations” for “honoring the Moroccan people,” according to the national news agency of the nation, MAP.
Following the game, the king called French President Emmanuel Macron to congratulate him, according to the news agency.
‘THEY MAKE US DREAM’
Derb Sultan, one of Casablanca’s oldest neighborhoods, served as a stronghold of defiance against colonial authority while the North African monarchy was a French protectorate from 1912 until 1956.
It also gave origin to Raja de Casablanca, one of Morocco’s best clubs, and is the hometown of renowned striker Mohamed Jarir (commonly known as “Houmane”), who became the first Moroccan to ever score in a World Cup in 1970.
“In this neighbourhood, we love football, so of course the national team’s victories make us dream,” said teenager Mohamed Nadifi, a teenager whose idol is winger Sofiane Boufal.
Shops have started selling team jerseys and flags all around Morocco.
“Not only have the Lions made us happy but they also allowed us to get business going again” despite rough economic times for many Moroccans, said trader Khalid Alaoui.
To buy jerseys for her four nephews, Touria Matrougui braved the bitter cold and pouring rain.
“They held the Moroccan flag high, and for that, we can never thank them enough,” she said.
Due to its success, the group has gained support from all around the continent.
“Morocco has made an entire continent proud,” said Sidibey Zoumana, from the Ivory Coast, who has lived in the country since 2018.
“I’ve been watching their progress as if it was my own country.”
Because of the team’s performance, Morocco’s reputation has changed in places like Gaza and Senegal.
“They proved that an African team can go places, and really compete,” said Said Mouhssine, 48, after the match.
Others felt that the game had a political undertone because it took place in the midst of a diplomatic dispute between Paris and Rabat about the sensitive Western Sahara issue.
Some fans had double disappointment when the nation’s airline, Royal Air Maroc, was forced to revoke additional flights for supporters to Qatar just hours after they were announced.
The promised tickets for other supporters who had already arrived in the Gulf state were not available.
Some claim that employees of the Moroccan Football Federation distributed the sought-after passes to friends and family.
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