Morocco wakes up to a World Cup dream that came true
Morocco beat Spain to reach the World Cup 2022 quarter-finals. Fans back in the country could barely believe what they saw.
As the sun rose above Morocco on Wednesday morning, the thrill and ecstasy from the night before had barely settled.
It is just hours after the Moroccan football team had created history – a place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup after beating Spain on Tuesday evening in Doha.
It was an unprecedented feat for a side that not many picked to be in the last eight.
In Doha, the fans sang, danced and celebrated into the early morning. And it was a feeling not lost on Moroccans back home.
“What a great day to be a Moroccan,” Abdessamad told Al Jazeera in Marrakesh. “My heart sank every time we failed to score from an opportunity. As Spain missed their penalties, I forgot everything around me. Suddenly, the loud roar around me made me realise we made it to the quarter-finals.
“Our team is on the road to something more magical, something bigger, something insane.”
In the capital, Rabat, cafes were lined up with people eager to watch the match, roads were packed and squares where screenings were taking place were filled with flags and Moroccans wearing team jerseys. A feeling of hope and optimism prevailed.
The win gave them an excuse to celebrate all night.
“It’s the first time I had this feeling,” Fahd Belbachir was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency. “We’re so proud.”
It was a day where history was made and Moroccans on the streets the morning after said they could not be more proud of what the team had achieved.
Some were even in disbelief, not fully able to comprehend that the dream was in fact reality.
“We are so proud of our Lions, who fought hard to get us into the quarter-finals,” Niama Meddoun, a Rabat resident, said. “We are delighted to be Moroccans today, since we are the first Arab country that has reached the quarter-finals.”
Videos circulating online showed the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, out celebrating with a Moroccan flag.
He praised the national team “who gave their all and blazed a trail throughout this great sporting event”. He added that the players represented the “hopes and dreams of Moroccans in Morocco, Qatar, and all over the world”.
With only eight out of the 32 teams left, Morocco is the only Arab and African nation in the tournament at this stage at the first World Cup being held in the Middle East.
Morocco’s success at the tournament has reverberated across the Arab world and among Moroccan and some other immigrant communities in Europe.
Ceuta is a Spanish exclave which borders Morocco on the North African coast. Its population is a mix of Spaniards and Moroccan residents and workers. The Associated Press reported that the win was also celebrated with cars honking horns there.
“What pride, what happiness, now to celebrate with friends. I have lost my voice,” said 20-year-old Ismael Mustafa. “We were able to pull it off. For Spain? You will win next time, so no worries.”
TV channels in Morocco dedicated the news bulletins to pan to various celebrations taking place across all cities and regions in Morocco.
The common denominator in all: euphoric supporters enjoying the joyous occasion. “Spain is gone, who is next” was a common phrase shouted across the country.
“The national team doesn’t only represent Moroccans, it represent Arabs and Africans from all over the world,” one fan told Al Jazeera in Marrakesh. “Football has united all these nations under the Moroccan flag.”
Reporting by Khadija Satou in Marrakech and Faras Ghani in Doha