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World Cup 2022: ‘We witnessed history as Morocco won’

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The noise was deafening at Al Thumama stadium – a mixture of euphoria and disbelief, tears, hugs and smiles.

Moroccan fans had dreamt of this moment, but not many expected that it would actually happen.

Their team has made history, becoming the first Arab and African side to make it to the World Cup semi-finals. They beat yet another favourite, Portugal.

A huge moment for the continent and the region.

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The tension was palpable on the pitch and in the stands. Morocco’s fans chanted seer or “go ahead” in Arabic, and let out a massive cheer as their team scored.

“This is a night that I’m going to tell my children and grandchildren about,” Soufiane Megrini told me.

“Morocco made us proud. We’re proud of our team and our coach.”

Soufiane Megrini

Soufiane told me how touched he felt at the massive Arab support for his team.

He said despite finding the Moroccan dialect difficult, some spectators from other Arab countries had wanted to take part in the chants, asking how to say the words.

“They were standing next to us… they were singing Moroccan songs,” he said.

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Flags tell an important part of the Moroccan World Cup story. As I write this, the skyscraper outside my window is radiating red with a green star in the middle. But there were others alongside Morocco’s red and green: Fans carried Saudi Arabian, Iraqi, Egyptian, Palestinian, Qatari and Jordanian flags.

Thousands of fans have travelled from across the Arab world to be here in Doha. Many have told us they’ve changed their tickets every time Morocco won. Some may have to change them again to witness another historic match for their team.

Zineb Aklikm and her husband Aziz Benyahya travelled to Doha from Morocco the day before the game. They left their two-month-old baby back home.

“As a mother, I feel guilty,” Zineb said, “but I’ll tell him about tonight.

“I don’t think we actually realise what just happened. We were witnessing history.”

Mohammed Rizki

Mohammed Rizki was beaming, the fringes of his traditional Moroccan hat moving as he spoke animatedly.

“I can’t really describe it,” he said.

“It’s a mix of feelings. We’re so happy about the win and excited for what’s coming.”

This is a mammoth sporting moment for Morocco. It’s the best performance in this team’s history, but it goes well beyond football. This is a much-needed moment of collective joy and pride for a whole region and a continent.

More crucially, this is a moment that has shifted the way Arab and African teams are viewed not just in the eyes of European and South American squads, but in the eyes of their own crowds.

One of the most shared videos after the game, apart from Morocco’s team celebrating, is the one of Cristiano Ronaldo crying – as Portugal exited the tournament.

One spectator told me that this is a moment of “confidence” – to stand head to head with the giants of this game and be real contenders and a formidable force.

“What we want now is the cup,” Mohammed Rizki said.

He added: “We’re not here just to be in the competition. We’re here to win.”

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