FC Goa’s Noah Sadaoui sat with his family in the bar of the hotel in Goa where his team is put up and watched his country, Morocco, eliminate Spain from the FIFA World Cup. He couldn’t celebrate with his teammates or plans to watch the quarterfinal match with them though. After all, four of the five other foreigners are Spanish. “I’am yet to face them!” he tells The Indian Express.
Another Moroccan footballer, the Mumbai City FC’s talisman Ahmed Jahouh though will consider himself fortunate. Being given a break by his team from December 2-7, he was at home to see that historic match — which Morocco won 3-0 in penalty shootouts after a goalless 120 minutes — the first time his country entered the quarterfinals of a World Cup.
“It was an unforgettable night for the Moroccan people. We were very happy and everyone was very happy. History was written after 36 years of waiting,” Jahouh says, referring to the Moroccan team, which, at Mexico 1986, became the first African team to qualify for the knockout stages of a World Cup.
By edging world heavyweights Spain, who just 12 years ago held the World Cup trophy aloft, Morocco became the first Arab nation to advance to the last eight, ensuring a breakthrough for the region in the first global tournament in the Middle East. They also became the fourth African side to go this far in World Cup history.
A win over Portugal will give them a chance to go a step ahead by being the only African team to enter a semifinal. Whether they manage to do that or not, one thing is for sure — the ear-shattering singing, drumming, and whistling from Morocco fans in Qatar has created an incredible atmosphere.
Professional competitive league structure
Stories of how inspired the players are because of these supporters or how the players are even more motivated given the fact that the Moroccan football federation has brought the families of all the players to Qatar are being touted as the reasons for their success.
While these intangible factors undeniably complement their success, it’s not the only reason. As Jahouh points out, it’s the league system that’s responsible for not only the success but also for creating such following and fanfare.Advertisement
“The Moroccan championships have developed in a fantastic way. In the last six seasons, the championships have become very professional in the full sense of the word. We have more than six divisions and this helps the emergence of many talented players,” Jahouh, who has represented his national team on seven occasions, told The Indian Express.
𝐇𝐈𝐒𝐓𝐎𝐑𝐘 𝐌𝐀𝐊𝐄𝐑𝐒 😳
Morocco reach the Quarter-Finals for the first time. 🇲🇦 #FIFAWorldCup | #Qatar2022 pic.twitter.com/Z6uVjyLmWz
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 6, 2022
“They also have a very large audience which helps teams to present their best technically. All that combined with good stadiums and great matches have created an exciting footballing culture,” Jahouh says.
Sadaoui goes a step further, saying they’re players in the Moroccan league that are even more skilful than those representing the country in Qatar.
“The difference is professionalism. There are players with more skill and ability than the players right now but it’s all about what you do day in and day out. And that’s why these players are on a world stage right now,” he says.
Influx of foreign-born-or-raised footballersAdvertisement
One may argue that a majority of their players were either born or raised in a foreign country, 16 of their 26-player squad, to be precise. Playmaker Hakim Ziyech, full-back Noussair Mazraoui and midfielder Sofyan Amrabat were born in the Netherlands; Achraf Hakimi was born in Spain while goalkeeper Yassine Bounou is of Canadian ancestry. Even their skipper Romain Saiss was born in France, just like their coach Walid Regragui, who captained the team too before taking over the coaching reins.
Sadaoui, who himself was born in Morocco before moving to the USA, says that it’s more opportunity-based.
The Moroccan carnival goes on 🔥
Absolute scenes at the Moroccan end after a sensational victory over Spain.
Can they continue this hot form, going into the quarter finals? #Eurosportindia #MARESP #morocco #spain #fifaworldcup2022 pic.twitter.com/K6mDDiWNdw
— Eurosport India (@EurosportIN) December 6, 2022
“All of them have a parent or grandparent born in Morocco. When you have that, and you hear stories of your country, you want to represent it. Same with me, there was no doubt when it came to choosing which country to represent. When you hear all the stories about the past and you see the pure love from the supporters, it’s easy to choose,” Sadaoui, who was part of the Morocco team that won the African Nations Championships in 2020, says.
On Saturday, Morocco face a Portugal team fresh from their thumping 6-1 win over Switzerland in the Round-of-16. Moroccan fans will undoubtedly be matched, if not out-voiced, by their Portuguese counterparts. But victories over Belgium and Spain at this World Cup have given Morocco a renewed belief. And that, the 29-year-old Sadaoui says, is everything.
“They have to remain humble and stay the course. Moreover, they have to believe in themselves, and in the coach. They have to believe they’re capable of competing at this stage otherwise they wouldn’t be here in the first place.Also Read‘Can’t understand why coming here would damage Henderson’s legacy and Mes...Watch: Cristiano Ronaldo looks bemused after being snubbed for player of ...Jose Mourinho substitutes Roma player, forces his own team to play with 1...Neymar joins exodus from Europe for ‘greener’ pastures in Saudi Arabia
“It’s not just their journey at the tournament. It’s their performance and belief at the qualifiers, at the friendlies preceding the World Cup. Look at the way the players celebrate, the way they jump on the coach to celebrate. That’s family,” Sadaoui says.© The Indian Express (P) Ltd