Arabs rejoice as one over Morocco’s historic win

Doha, Qatar – Achraf Hakimi was on site. The Spanish-born fullback of the Atlas Lions had the chance to send Morocco through to the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time ever.

So when Hakimi, after the nerve-racking penalty shoot-out against Spain, so easily kicked the ball into the net at Qatar’s Education City Stadium, thousands of spectators collectively breathed a huge sigh of relief – and then they roared.

Safa, 39, said she “didn’t expect” Morocco to get this far.

“We are so happy… next game we will win 1-0 inshallah,” the Casablanca resident told Al Jazeera.

Safa, who also attended Morocco’s match against Canada on Dec. 1, said the fan hype at the stadium likely had a “positive impact” on the players as well.

A cacophony of cheers, chants and drumming filled the stadium as soon as the historic game began.

Reaching the quarter-finals was an unspeakable achievement, adding to the successes of Arab teams Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, who beat Argentina and France respectively, despite their eventual exit from the World Cup.

The wave of support in the stadium was deafening as Morocco became the first Arab nation and fourth African country to progress to the last eight of football’s biggest tournament.

‘We have written history’

“It’s a dream come true, I have no words to express my happiness,” Fadoua Chernane told Al Jazeera.

“They are our heroes, they made us proud today, whether we win the World Cup or not, we made history today,” said the 42-year-old.

As the celebrations quickly spread across Doha, Arab fans took to Twitter to share photos of Hakimi hugging and kissing his mother, who had cheered him on from the stands.

Hakimi’s personal story became a source of inspiration for some.

Meanwhile, the photo went viral of the winning team unfurling a Palestinian flag during their on-pitch celebrations.

Morocco’s players had also helped raise the flag – which was featured several times throughout the tournament – following their victory against Canada last week.

Some pointed out that the presence of the Palestinian flag and the choruses for “Free Palestine” during the tournament proved that Arabs – unlike their rulers – continued to support the Palestinian cause.

An ESPN reporter noted that “every team in North Africa and the Middle East has ensured that the Palestinian issue is prominently featured at every game”.

Celebrations all over the Arab world

Moroccans celebrating their team’s historic World Cup victory were joined by people from the Middle East and North Africa in what was seen as a win for the entire Arab world.

In Morocco’s capital, Rabat, where fans had poured into cafes hours before to watch the game, people lined downtown roads leading to a square where supporters celebrated after previous Moroccan victories, flags flew from their windows and honked furiously.

“It’s the first time I had this feeling!” said Fahd Belbachir, on his way to the city center. “We are so proud.”

Brahim Ait Belkhit said the spontaneous mood of joy was so great that he resolved an argument with someone he had avoided for years and then saw on the street.

“It made us forget about our old fight,” he said.

Leaders from all over the Arab world praised Moroccan silk.

“Congratulations to the Atlas Lions, you have thrilled us. Wow Morocco, you did it again!” Queen Rania of Jordan wrote on Twitter.

Cheers rang out from Tunis and Beirut to Baghdad, Ramallah and other cities as Arabs gathered to rejoice at the largely unexpected victory over Spain – a contrast to the political disputes that have long divided Arab states.

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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