Moroccans are celebrating. With their victory over Spain at the World Cup in Qatar, the Atlas Lions have made history. Morocco became the first Arab nation to reach the quarter-finals of the competition. After an intense match, the Moroccan national team beat the Spanish national team in a penalty shoot-out.
"I grew up watching great Spanish teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid. Beating a great country like Spain is a great victory for Morocco," a 23-year-old Moroccan resident of Doha told Reuters after the match at the Education City Stadium.
Ashraf Hakimi's goal sparked euphoria among the more than 44,000 Moroccans in and around the stadium as they began to celebrate their national team's important victory. Thousands of kilometres away in the Qatari city of Al-Rayyan, in the streets of Moroccan towns, citizens also came out to celebrate their national team's success. "We are very proud," a Rabat resident told the news agency amid celebrations in the centre of the Moroccan capital.
There have also been celebrations in Spanish cities. Moroccans living in Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga and Bilbao crowded the main avenues and squares to celebrate their team's passage to the quarter-finals for the first time in history.
With flags, flares, horns and in a peaceful manner, thousands of Moroccans in Spain took to the streets to sing and dance to celebrate the important milestone of their national team. The same happened in other parts of Europe with large Moroccan communities, such as Amsterdam, Brussels, London, Paris and Milan.
The King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, personally congratulated the Moroccan national team after its victory. The monarch spoke by telephone with the president of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation, Fouzi Lekjaa, and the national coach, Walid Regragui, to whom he expressed "his most sincere congratulations", according to Maroc Hebdo. Mohammed VI highlighted the quality of the players, as well as the work of the technical team, who "knew how to give the best of themselves and make an excellent journey in this great sporting competition," the Moroccan media reported.
The king also highlighted "the historic performance" of the players, whom he urged to "stay the course in the tournament to continue to honour national football and carry the flag of the Kingdom high". As well as congratulating the national team, Mohammed VI joined Moroccan citizens in the streets of Rabat to celebrate the victory.
Due to their successful run during the World Cup, Morocco's national team has earned the respect and support of the rest of the Arab nations. "The impossible is not Moroccan, the impossible is not Arab. The citizens of Morocco and the world are proud of you," Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, wrote on his Twitter account.
المستحيل ليس مغربياً .. المستحيل ليس عربياً .. أسود ورجال المغرب 🇲🇦 بكم نفخر ونفاخر العالم.. pic.twitter.com/zDwA1Tt7bA— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) December 6, 2022
On Twitter, Queen Rania of Jordan - who has supported Morocco since the start of the competition - also congratulated the North African team. "Congratulations to the Atlas Lions, they delighted us. wow Morocco, you did it again!" she wrote.
Morocco's successes in the sporting competition have sparked Arab pride across North Africa and the Middle East. In addition to the Emirati prime minister and the Jordanian queen, Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibé celebrated Morocco's victory.
"It's a victory for all Arabs, not just Morocco, and the joy is even greater that it was achieved on Arab soil," an Amman resident told Reuters. Arabs feel Morocco's victory as a victory of their own, and are hopeful that an Arab nation can win the World Cup for the first time in history.
Similarly, African countries support Morocco, as it is the only team from the continent left in the competition. The Maghreb country is also the fourth to reach the quarter-finals after Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana. "It's a historic victory and Morocco honours all Arabs and Africans," they told Reuters during celebrations in Tunis. "It is a dream come true. We won, and Africa won with us," said a Moroccan in Rabat.
Even Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, Sudan's vice president, echoed the Moroccan victory. "Thanks to the Atlas lions. Congratulations to the Arab and African fans," he wrote on Twitter.