The whole of Africa is celebrating: Spurred on by 20,000 fanatical supporters, Morocco surprisingly defeated the favored Spaniards and reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup with a 3-0 penalty shoot-out. Not a single Spaniard scored from the spot after a previously goalless 120 minutes. First Pablo Sarabia shot the post, then Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets were denied by Moroccan goalkeeper Bono. Morocco are the fourth African team in the last eight after Cameroon, Senegal and most recently Ghana. Opponent is Portugal or Switzerland on Saturday. The Moroccan fans celebrated the sensational success enthusiastically.
“I’m Egyptian, but I’m here to support Morocco,” Gamal told DW ahead of the game at Doha’s Education City Stadium. “Morocco is the last Arab country left in the competition and also the last African country.”
Hakim Ziyech, Achraf Hakimi and company had already made history at the tournament by becoming the first African side to win a World Cup group since Nigeria 1998 – ahead of perceived heavyweights Croatia and Belgium. This had not only caused enthusiasm in Morocco.
“Morocco plays for all Africans”
When a European team is eliminated from a World Cup, the fans tend to remain passive and follow the rest of the tournament. They are then more interested in the overall result than rooting for another team from Europe. It’s different in Africa: although African fans primarily cheer for their own country, they turn to the other African teams with great enthusiasm after their exit and support them as they did their own.
For example, Mahmoud, an Egyptian restaurant owner in Qatar, watched Senegal play England in the Doha fan zone. And although Egypt narrowly lost to Senegal in both the final of the Africa Cup of Nations and in the decisive game of World Cup qualifiers, he supported the “Lions of Teranga” at the World Cup. “They play for us,” Mahmoud told DW ahead of Senegal’s round of 16 match against England. “They go to the field for all Africans.”
After Senegal was eliminated, the Senegalese fans also turned their attention to the Moroccans. “Now we will support Morocco to the end,” emphasizes Bintou, a member of the “12eme Gainde”. [“12. Mann”, Anm. d. Red.], the colorful Senegalese fan group that always dances and sings in the stands during matches. “All of Senegal, all of Africa is behind Morocco,” he said. “They are our team now and we hope they can reach the final.”
Support even from Algeria
Even in neighboring Algeria, whose diplomatic relations with Morocco are strained over the Western Sahara conflict, Morocco’s team has supporters. Videos on social media show Algerians celebrating Morocco’s victory over Belgium as enthusiastically as the rest of Africa. States may argue politically, but people seem to have only one thing in mind: to see Africa shine at the World Cup, no matter which country or part of the continent the most successful team comes from.
The text has been adapted.