World Cup

Moroccan World Cup supporters rush to book flights

Moroccans fought for seats on the seven extra flights that the government-run Royal Air Maroc (RAM) announced on Friday in order to send soccer fans to Qatar in time for the World Cup quarterfinal matchup against Portugal.

Morocco, the only remaining African nation in the competition and the first Arab nation to ever go to the quarterfinals, has been enthralled by the team’s World Cup performance, which has included triumphs over highly regarded Spain and Belgium.

Ticket holders for the Saturday game and a Hayya card, Qatar’s temporary entry visa for World Cup guests, are required to board the additional planes, according to a source from the Moroccan soccer association.

However, a number of supporters claimed to have obtained airline tickets using only the Hayya card at a RAM office in Rabat and expressed the prospect of purchasing match tickets once they were in Doha.

In the pouring rain on Thursday evening, Ousama Ouaddich said he had been able to purchase a ticket for the game but had not yet booked a flight.

“It’s frustrating. We need more airplanes,” he said.

At home, the two stadiums in Casablanca and Marrakech, where a screen has been installed in the Jmaa al-Fnaa plaza, a UNESCO world heritage site, are the primary fan zones with large displays.

According to city council member Abdelmakel El Mansouri, the Jmaa al-Fnaa was decorated with flags and vibrated to the chants of 30.000 fans during the match versus Spain.

“We are expecting a similar or higher number of fans during the game against Portugal,” he said.

One of the organizers advised fans to the Casablanca stadium zone to arrive three hours early to secure a spot.

Shops and stands selling flags, T-shirts, and uniforms for the national team are booming all around the nation.

“Looking at how many T-shirts I have sold, I wish the World Cup lasted forever,” said Zouhir Sabir, a shop keeper in the old centre of Rabat. The price of clothes with national symbols had risen about 30 per cent due to high demand, he said.

“Now you see people dressed normally. On the day of the match most people will be wearing colours of the national flag and football jerseys,” he said.

Even those who weren’t particularly interested in sports joined the street parties that followed Morocco’s success in the competition.

“I’m not usually a football fan and I know we have lots of economic problems in the country. But I think this is a special moment to celebrate,” said Abdellah Belhaj, a retired man in Rabat.

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