By Ali Farhat Doha, Detsch Welle, 11 December 2022
DOHA - Morocco will face France tomorrow in the semi-final of the world cup having knocked out major European national teams.
Morocco's historic quarterfinal victory has the entire African continent and the whole Arab world in dreamland. But the mood is changing. Morocco are no longer just here for the ride; they want to win the World Cup.
The final whistle sounded, the floodgates opened, and the tears flowed forth.
Firstly, those of Cristiano Ronaldo, as the distraught five-time Ballon d'Or winner fled down the tunnel having failed to have the desired impact since coming on as a 51st-minute substitute.
But the 37-year-old's tears of sorrow constituted mere drops in the ocean of Moroccan joy after Youssef En-Nesyri's towering header sent the Atlas Lions into the semifinal of the World Cup – the first African team to do so in men's football, an achievement nothing short of historic.
Morocco: an heroic team …
Once more, Morocco have defied the odds. Once more, "professor" Walid Regragui's students have shown the world what they're made of: blood and sweat, of course, like everyone else, but with a uniquely generous helping of solidarity.
Because once more, the players on the pitch weren't alone, backed from the first minute to the 98th by a raucous support drawn not just from Casablanca, Rabat and Agadir, but from across Africa and the Middle East at the first World Cup in the Arab world, a tournament they have made their own.
Backed by unconditional support
The atmospheres in the stadia in Doha haven't been the loudest over the past couple of weeks, with some notable exceptions: the Argentinians of course, the Tunisians, too.
But nothing compared to Morocco's "12th man" at the Al-Thumama Stadium on Saturday night, whistling every Portuguese touch of the ball and encouraging every Moroccan attack as if it were the final decisive chance, a veritable festival of decibels which made the "performance" in the stands against Spain in the last-16 look like a friendly.
"I've lost my voice," croaked one Moroccan supporter, Ismael, at full-time.
He wasn't alone, but that didn't stop the masses in red from continuing to sing their praise for their national team: "Hey, ho! Congratulations to us! This is just the start; the rest is yet to come," as the popular chant goes, reverberating around the stands, the streets and, later that night, Souq Waqif, which the Moroccans have made their home from home in Doha.
"We're not just happy; it's a feeling much stronger than that," said Ahmed, who had come from Casablanca with his wife Zaineb. "This is historic for Morocco. No-one had us down as winners, but here we are! We're the best!"
That was already clear to Kenza, who said she travelled from Marrakesh especially for the quarterfinal "expecting a victory."
"It's extraordinary," she exclaimed. "It's historic for us, for the Arab world and for Africa."
'We're here for the trophy now'
Despite the fearsome array of talent in the Portuguese squad (Gonçalo Ramos, João Félix, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, not to mention Ronaldo), the Moroccan fans had no doubts about the qualities of their own team, the core of which also plays in Europe at the top level, and can more than hold its own.
"This team is like a family, the players all support each other," explained Sofiane, also from Casablanca. "As soon as one player loses the ball, a teammate is there to help him and tell him to not give up, to keep fighting till the end."
Having seen off the two powerhouses of the Iberian peninsula, Morocco are now guaranteed two more matches in Qatar: the historic semifinal against world champions France and then either the final or the third-place playoff. Not that the Atlas Lions will be satisfied with bronze.
"No matter the opposition, we're ready," declared Ismail from Agadir, who has been present at every Morocco match in Qatar so far. "We're here to take the trophy home now, it's ours." For Sofiane, "the sky is the limit" while Douha was certain: "We'll make the final, inshallah."
As for Ahmed, he hoped the rest of the world has now understood the simple message: "Impossible is not Moroccan."