Moroccan fans celebrate in Rabat after the semi-finals, December 14, 2022 (Dror Zamir)
"We are very proud of what we have done here," told journalists, including a representative of Walla!
Sport, after the loss of his Morocco team 2:0 to the powerful France.
"We wanted to win and it hurts, but we're proud. Proud of our crowd, proud of our families, proud of ourselves. If there's anything we've learned this month, it's that there is no such thing as impossible. There isn't. And if there is, then 'impossible' is not Moroccan." , he signed when some of the journalists around him were crying, some looked lost and some tried to hug him.
Darry seemed sad, but not broken.
And that was the situation of most of the Moroccan fans present at the World Cup semi-final between France and Morocco.
A game that contained everything that should contain a fascinating football game on the field, and off it.
From atmosphere and crowd, through history and geopolitics to an impossible professional competition between football schools and more.
Sad, but not broken.
Dary (Photo: GettyImages, Lionel Hahn)
History, conquest and representation
Although about fifty thousand Moroccans were expected in the stadium, from the beginning of the day not everything worked smoothly.
On Wednesday morning, Royal Air Maroc, which was supposed to fly about 30 planes with 200 passengers each from Casablanca to Doha, announced that due to restrictions by the host Qatar, only 14 such planes eventually landed at Hamed International Airport.
It's not that Doha wasn't filled with Moroccans on the morning of the match - it was - but the fact that there were many more who wanted to come and didn't make it, was just a hint of the future to come.
It's not every day that a country's team plays against the country's team that conquered it for 44 years, changed its language, culture, and influenced every aspect of its life.
This is exactly the story of Morocco and France.
Senegal v France in 2002 was a similar encounter, but last night's match at Al-Bait Stadium was the first time it had happened at such a crucial stage in the World Cup.
The French who conquered Morocco in 1912 and left in 1956, to this day maintain close ties with the kingdom and some of the Moroccan squad players are French citizens for all intents and purposes.
It must be said, Morocco's entire journey in this tournament has been characterized by rare symbolism.
The expulsions of Spain and Portugal reminded the audience of the battles of al-Andalus between the eighth century, when the Umayyad Empire conquered the Iberian Peninsula and made it Muslim until the fifth century and the Christian reconquest as part of the Reconquista.
The Moroccans really felt that they were regaining some of their lost dignity.
Together with the united front of the Arab world that stood behind them throughout the tournament, when even the Algerians, who between Morocco and the country of Algeria have a live conflict mainly around the Western Sahara and relations with Israel, yesterday supported the Atlas Lions team.
One of the phenomena that made Morocco such a big hit in the Middle East is the fact that the mothers of the players and the professional staff were an integral part of their journey in Qatar.
After each victory, they went down to the grass, and the sharp-eyed could spot a line of mothers in every game behind the bench of Walid Ragraghi.
And who doesn't connect with mom?
Beyond the Arab world and the region closest to us, Morocco represented Africa in this World Cup and especially in the semi-finals, as the first African team to ever qualify for this status, and the responsibility was great.
"The impossible is not Moroccan," cried the headlines of the Al-Anbaa newspaper in Morocco.
But, then it was game time.
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A journey of rare symbolism.
Morocco fans (Photo: GettyImages, Lionel Hahn)
Al-Bait is not the house
El Beit Stadium, probably the largest Bedouin tent in the world, was filled from early hours with an almost complete Moroccan majority.
World Cup semi-final, and similar to the previous World Cup, several hundreds of French people were present, in what became a home game for all intents and purposes of Morocco.
A home for Morocco, a home for the Arab world, and in a sense a home for anyone who wants to sympathize with the underdog and his struggle against those stronger than him.
This was felt with tremendous contempt in the French Marseillais anthem, which made it clear to the French that even today Doha is Casablanca, and there is zero patience for national symbols of countries that have conquered another people.
The tension between Morocco and France, or Europe in general, is not based only on the colonial past that exists between the countries.
There is also this small matter of the... football.
One of the accusations hurled at the Moroccan team throughout the tournament is that it is not a truly Arab or African team, because most of its players are European.
About 14 players out of a roster of 26 players are other Europeans born in the country.
In addition, it is said that Morocco has not produced any players.
So that's it, that's also not true.
For the neutral observer, Morocco's qualification for the semi-finals of the World Cup is a crazy and even unrelated surprise, but for the African football insiders, the Moroccans' qualification for this status is a matter of time.
In 2010, Morocco established the Mohammed VI Academy, the most advanced football institution in Africa and one of the most advanced in the world.
This academy produced part of the skeleton of the squad in this World Cup.
Stopper Naif Agard, Ezzadin Onahi and Youssef A-Nasiri - all three key players in the current crazy campaign.
At the height of the process of taking over African football.
Regraghi (Photo: Reuters)
And that's not all.
Reluctantly, Morocco stepped into the vacuum created in Arab and African football by the Port Said disaster (which claimed the lives of 72 football fans and two more policemen at a football match in Egypt between Al Ahly and El Masry).
The disaster condemned Egypt to a decade of games without an audience, which led to a decrease in revenue, interest and regional and continental appeal.
This is where Moroccan football began to come in.
In 2017, Widad won the African Champions League for the first time since 1992. Now in 2022, they did it again (with who became the coach of the national team, Walid Ragraghi).
City rival Raja Casablanca and Barkan have also won the African Confederation Cup five times since 2018. In fact, Morocco is at the peak of the process of taking over African football from the Egyptians.
Such a militant team and a place in the semi-finals of the World Cup is just a landmark on the way, but definitely not the finished product.
When the game started, all of Morocco's nationalism, history, culture and football momentum were put to the test.
"Pot, pot, pot, pot!"
A whole stadium chanted every time the ball hit who among Hakim Zaish, Sufyan Bhopal and Ashraf Hakimi.
The boost the Moroccans received was enormous and it felt like here, here they were going to surprise France like they surprised Belgium, Spain and Portugal.
But the game opens in a completely opposite way.
In the fifth minute, a burst of France caught Jawad El Yamik off guard, and after one shot from Giroud was deflected, Theo Hernandez scored from the left side as Bono was off target.
0:1 to the world champion, and suddenly, the gaps widened hugely.
But even though most of their fans expected them to, Morocco did not fall apart.
Onachi in a personal operation threatened from a distance and made Lloris tense and created interest.
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the flag bearers.
Moroccan players (Photo: Reuters)
The Moroccans continued to set the tone in terms of pace, but provided very little purpose.
The second half continued exactly the same way.
The Moroccans tried, but the chances that usually came in went nowhere.
As the game progressed Morocco continued to miss and play better than France, but to no avail.
When France's second goal came from the feet of Moani who came on as a substitute and scored with his first touch of the ball, it was already clear that the story was over.
France won 0:2, and the Morocco of Ragraghi, the goalkeeper Yassin Bono, Ashraf Hakimi, Onahi, Soufian Amrabt and Zeish was stopped for the first time by its weapon - defense, going for bursts.
France barely had possession of the ball but stung at the right moments, and put the finishing touches on Morocco's dream and story - to qualify for the World Cup finals against Argentina and Lionel Messi, in the first World Cup in the Middle East.
This Morocco was a good and sweet story.
Even very sweet.
She was the embodiment of this World Cup dream.
The World Cup of "the others".
Those who are not usually in the center of the frame, who are not the story, and now they are.
She was powerful, surprising, exciting, inspiring in her sacrifice - she was different.
And it was good.
The Moroccans can be very proud of what they have done here this month.
For their people, and for the Arab world, the Middle East and Africa.
Despite the loss to France, they proved that impossible is not a permanent and absolute thing, and it is possible to challenge it with the right attitude, enthusiasm, investment and taking advantage of opportunities.
FIFA World Cup
Morocco national team