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‘We lost… we dominated’: Fans in Africa, Arab world praise gutsy Morocco

Moroccans have slumped with disappointment after their team’s semi-final defeat to France but were still pumped with pride for a World Cup run that spurred tears of joy across Africa and the Arab world.

As France’s second goal went in on Wednesday, the deafening noise of Morocco’s overwhelming support inside Qatar’s Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday went suddenly quiet — a silence echoed not only in Rabat and Casablanca, but in Beirut, Cairo and Dakar.

A woman in green, sitting in the banked rows of supporters that had whistled, drummed and cheered through the game, sat silently, her hands clasped in front of her lips to watch the final minutes.

In the first World Cup held in an Arab country, and one already marked by upsets, Morocco won supporters far afield as the first Arab team to reach the quarter-final and the first African team to reach the semis.

Long after the final whistle, when the victorious French team left the pitch, Morocco’s players stayed on, basking in the love of a stadium clad in red and green colours.

“We are really proud of this team… we already made history so we can’t judge them for this match,” said Mohamad Alaoui, 24, a Moroccan student who said he had travelled from London to attend the World Cup and had been at every Morocco game.

“I’m so happy that I was here to see the team in the stadium and that I got to see them go so far in this World Cup,” said Samira Idrissi, 34.

Morocco was under French rule from 1912-56, giving the match political and emotional resonance for both nations.

Morocco has exceeded all expectations in Qatar by beating second-ranked Belgium in the group stage and then eliminating European powerhouses Spain and Portugal in the knockout phase to reach the semi-final.

“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 for Hakim Salama, the 2-0 defeat to France was too much. “We missed the opportunity of the century,” he said.

READ MORE: France end Morocco’s World Cup journey with 2-0 win in semi-final

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Tears of joy 

In Rabat, where fans had packed cafes for hours before the game, the crowd rose to applaud their team despite the defeat.

“This is the semi-final. It is already an honour, and we are proud to see people from different countries root for the Moroccan team,” said Taoufiq Ouchikh.

“We thank the national team for this achievement. We are proud of this team. We lost to a world Cup champion and we dominated,” said Abdelilah Sair, another fan watching in the same cafe.

Afterwards, some fans braved wet weather to parade through central Rabat as car horns honked, raising red flares in the rain.

“Morocco has made an entire continent proud,” said Sidibey Zoumana, from the Ivory Coast, who has lived in Morocco since 2018.

“I’ve been watching their progress as if it was my own country.”

In a Beirut cafe where France fans had gathered to watch the game, Morocco fan Sanaa Kassemi burst into tears as the victorious French players celebrated, but she waved the Moroccan flag in the air.

“I have a French passport, but I am originally Moroccan. That’s the most important thing about how I feel right now,” she said.

Elsewhere in Lebanon, Palestinian refugee Ahmad Iskandar said he felt particularly proud that a team with Arab and Islamic roots had gone so far. “We are honoured that they reached the semi-finals,” he said.

On Egypt’s Red Sea coast, banker Ahmed Zaki, 38, said Morocco had failed to take advantage of their chances. “They deserved to lose, but with honour,” he said.

In Saudi Arabia, Fahad al-Dawsari said it would inspire people in the region to dream that they might one day reach a final. 

“What Morocco did will encourage the Arab national teams,” he added.

READ MORE: Morocco’s Regragui breaks new World Cup ground for Africa, Arab coaches

‘I am not disappointed at all’

African fans also voiced pride in Morocco’s exploits.

“We take our hats off to them for this brilliant run,” said Arsene Boua, who had watched the game with friends in an Abidjan bar.

In the Cameroonian capital Yaounde, car washer Michael Fogang said he was happy despite the defeat. 

“I am not disappointed at all. Morocco made a lot of effort,” he said in the bar where he watched the game.

In other North African states, culturally close to Morocco, their success had been particularly felt. 

“Thank you for making us dream,” said Lamia Mssedi, a woman watching the game in Tunis.

Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch lauded a team he called heroes that brought joy to Moroccans and made the country’s name “resonate on every tongue during the World Cup”. 

Other regional leaders to congratulate Morocco on getting so far included Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid. 

French President Emmanuel Macron, who had been in the stadium for the game, said he was “immensely proud” that France reached the World Cup final.

He led tributes to the defeated Moroccan side. “To our Moroccan friends: congratulations on this beautiful journey. You are making football history,” he tweeted.

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