Football World Cup: For Morocco’s football fans, nationality is a fluid concept

Supporters say Morocco’s victory will be built on the capacity of its movement, with 14 of the 26-man team in Qatar born overseas. Morocco’s red and green flag is flying from cars, football shirts are worn proudly, and there’s genuine optimism that the Atlas Lions can perform strongly at the Qatar Football World Cup. Later beating Canada 2-1 at the Al Thumama stadium in Doha on Thursday, Morocco’s victory on the pitch is rallying supporters across the county, bringing about a rare moment of pan-Arab unity.

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With supporters relishing the on-field magic, Morocco is being cited by some as an example of in what way states ranked outside Fifa’s highest 20 countries can successfully turn to their global movement to complete success. Morocco’s highlighted player at the tournament, Achraf Hakimi, was born in Spain. Sofiane Boufal, who has been active in their build-up play, storms from France; while the bright Hakim Ziyech was born in the Netherlands.

With an additional than 130 players at the Football World Cup representative a state other than that of their birth, the problem of turning to the diaspora isn’t exact to the Moroccan national squad.  Star midfielder Wahbi Khazri is among some French-born players in the Tunisia team; and the US, England, Australia and hosts Qatar have all called in players who were born abroad. But no squad at the tournament has additional foreign-born players than Morocco.

Born abroad, bound in Morocco

At the 1998 Football World Cup in France, Morocco’s squad featured only two players who were born outside the state. This time around, a staggering 14 players in the 26-man team were born overseas. The Moroccans have done nothing wrong when it comes to choosing their players, and a host of supporters Middle East Eye spoke to said the problem wasn’t mostly difficult given that the players maintained strong ties to the state.

Ayman El Felyani, a student in Tetouan, a city 220km north of the capital, Rabat, told MEE that he saying nationality as a fluid concept. One of his favorite players, the Dutch-born defender Noussair Mazraoui, made his profession with European clubs but has Moroccan parents. As a Moroccan, I wouldn’t upkeep if the players were born on Mars, Felyani held. Supporters’ willingness to overlook their national squad’s heavy reliance on foreign capacity may have something to do with the players’ multifaceted identities.

Hakimi, a household name in the kingdom, proceeds to pay tribute to his Moroccan heritage and has frequently earned praise from legendary players such as Noureddine Naybet, who have called him a “pride for Morocco and a joy for the nation”. Wisal Elkha, a Moroccan expatriate in Italy and long-time Atlas Lions supporter described the national side’s recruitment from European clubs as a practical endeavor.  “Here we know that you find the highest clubs in Europe, where there’s a chance to play with big players and advantage from them, and the level of football is high as well.”

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Success over everything

Morocco has a big net capacity to select from. In 2018, the state’s diplomatic aim recorded 4.2 million Moroccans living outside the kingdom, approximately at about 10 percent of its population at the time.

Nonetheless, the diaspora keeps in mind close ties to the kingdom. Learning in September by the Council of the Moroccan Community Abroad, a government agency, end that 61 percent of Moroccans in Europe between the ages of 18 and 35 visit the kingdom every year.

To the Atlas Lions’ most dedicated supporters, patriotism and the potential for the squad’s success outweigh the fact of where anybody was born. Fatima-Ezzahra Hayad, a marketing professional from Sale, a city in northwestern Morocco, said having a star player similar to Hakimi in the team, who is considered one of the best defenders in Europe this time, would energize the team.

If you are the top in your position, you should be called for the national team, note Hayad, who is at the tournament in Doha. The actual squad especially the players who are binational or have lived their entire lives abroad are representative of Morocco as long as they have a love for the state and add to its achievement. As extended as you have blood joining Morocco, you are Moroccan. Any victory of yours or involvement in Morocco would be considered a source of pride.

It was this kind of national pride that moved Hayad to travel to Qatar, and she isn’t alone. Mohamed Sitri, Morocco’s ambassador in Doha, claimed in a recent interview with the website Success that Moroccans ranked among the top 10 purchasers of Football World Cup tickets by nationality. 

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The Diaspora

The existence of Hakimi, Mazraoui, and other another-generation immigrants in Morocco’s national line-up points to a trend as old as the Football World Cup itself: the flow of Moroccan immigrants to Europe. Said Saddiki, a professor of international relations at Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University in Fes, said that emigrants from Morocco, similar to other diasporas from the Maghreb, feel a durable attachment to their homeland. “This solid relationship seems in main public events such as football games,” he told MEE. 

“An example of this is the riots that take place in Paris or Brussels when a Maghrebi squad victory or loses in a big match.” Following Morocco’s 2-0 upset success over Belgium, riots broke out in many Belgian and Dutch cities. 

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Gary Neville identifies Unai Simon as a weak point in Luis Enrique’s Spain team

Gary Neville has largely been very impressed by Spain at the Football World Cup so far, but not their goalkeeper, Unai Simon, and he senses administrator Luis Enrique have a big call to make going into the knockout phases. Spain only scraped into the last 16, in the conclusion, later a 2-1 loss to Japan on Thursday night, which said Germany removed at the group phase.

Enrique’s side had watched spectacularly in their opener in beating Costa Rica 7-0, but they have decayed since then with a 1-1 draw against the Germans previously the shock loss to the Japanese. Japan’s initial goal, through Ritsu Doan, was a well-struck shot but one which Simon got both hands to and could only punch into his own net.

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Neville senses that both Robert Sanchez and David Raya could be better choices as they head into the previous 16 against Morocco, and even Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, who is not in the team, could have been a better choice. The big choice with Spain is whether they stick with their goalkeeper because Simon has not filled me with assurance,’ Neville said on ITV. He’s the one portion of the squad that views that as a real weak point.

He’s got to save that, it’s no good that. They’ve got Raya on the bench, they’ve got Sanchez, and De Gea’s still at home, I know he’s not been brilliant the previous limited years but I can’t ponder if he would have let that in. That [the initial goal] is a really bad one. In a knockout match, it’s fatal for you.’ The 25-year-old Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper has picked up 29 caps for Spain since making his debut in 2020, with Brentford’s Raya and Brighton’s Sanchez the other choices in Enrique’s team.

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