The Arab world and the Palestinians join in the celebrations of Morocco in the semi-finals of the World Cup

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Ecstatic Moroccans took to the streets of their capital and cities in the North African country on Saturday, waving flags, honking horns and lighting flares to celebrate the historic victory of the national team of football on Portugal at the World Cup.

Morocco beat the Portuguese 1-0 in Qatar, eliminating Cristiano Ronaldo from the tournament and making the Atlas Lions the first African team and the first Arab team to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.

The capital, Rabat, was exploding with joy as Moroccan fans also celebrated in the streets of Doha and in cities across Europe, where many Moroccans live. Other Middle Eastern and African fans who adopted the Atlas Lions as their team were also jubilant.

“We were so stressed as if we were on the pitch with the players, but now we want the trophy,” said Mohamed Amine, who was celebrating in Rabat. “Players, this team has elevated Morocco’s reputation among the nations of the world.”

This victory puts the Moroccan supporters in full confidence for the days to come. The team will face either France or England in the semi-finals on Wednesday.

“I’m so happy that I don’t even know if I can express myself, but if we’re here now, I believe we can qualify for the final,” Yasmine Benmehredj said during celebrations in the Moroccan capital. “I think we can win this World Cup.”

Moroccan players celebrate after the World Cup quarter-final soccer match between Morocco and Portugal, at Al Thumama stadium in Doha, Qatar, December 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

In Qatar, hundreds of delighted fans dressed in green and red outside Al Thumama Stadium celebrated Morocco’s victory, chanting, shouting, banging drums and waving the national flag. Some chanted: “Congratulations to us for this debut! This will only go on and on and on!

“It’s amazing. It’s the very first time,” said Saleh al-Rayes, a 27-year-old Saudi fan in Doha.

As an Arab at the first World Cup staged in the Middle East, al-Rayes said he felt a sense of inclusion and representation in the world of football, a place that has been dominated by teams European and South American.

“You come in as an underdog and then you win. This is Arab pride,” al-Rayes said. “All the Arab countries were here in the stadium to support Morocco.”

Palestinians filled cafes and a gym, turned into a free World Cup viewing spot by Qatar for residents of the impoverished Gaza Strip, cheering and rejoicing in victory. Some held posters with Palestinian and Moroccan flags and a slogan that read, “One people, one country.”

Morocco’s victory in Qatar touched the Palestinians as the players and many of their supporters expressed their solidarity on and off the pitch during the World Cup. Palestinian flags appeared regularly in groups of supporters from Morocco to Qatar and among supporters celebrating in Europe.

Moroccan players celebrate with a Palestinian flag at the end of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Round of 16 match between Morocco and Spain at the Education City stadium in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha, on December 6, 2022 (Glyn Kirk/AFP)

On Tuesday, some of the team’s players unfurled Palestinian flags on the pitch after beating Spain.

“It’s an indescribable feeling. I swear, it’s like Palestinians playing,” said Ibrahim al-Lilli, a Morocco fan in Gaza.

Moroccan fans, some with Palestinian flags, arrive ahead of the World Cup quarter-final soccer match between Morocco and Portugal, at Al Thumama stadium in Doha, Qatar, December 10, 2022. (AP Photo /Jorge Saenz)

Similar scenes were seen in the West Bank. Palestinians took to the streets, cars honking and people waving Palestinian and Moroccan flags. In Nablus, a video posted on social media showed groups of Palestinians chanting “Morocco! under the watchful eye of Israeli soldiers across the street.

In Ramallah’s Arafat Square, thousands danced and sweets were handed out as the match ended, “as car horns blared and fireworks and gunshots rang out into the night” , said the Guardian. reported.

“It’s beautiful,” said Abdullaziz Errayes, 23, from Libya who had his national flag tied around his neck like a superhero cape as he left the Doha stadium. “It is the first Arab country, the first African country to reach the semi-finals. Morocco represents us.

Morocco’s phenomenal run also reverberated across Africa on Saturday.

“Continental History!” wrote the Confederation of African Football on Twitter after Morocco’s victory.

“Historic and fantastic,” African Union Chairperson and Senegalese President Macky Sall wrote in a tweet.

Moroccans celebrate in Rabat, Morocco, on December 10, 2022, their team’s victory over Portugal in the quarter-final of the FIFA World Cup played in Qatar. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

The musicians also congratulated Morocco and underlined the importance of the victory for the continent.

“Africa rises…what an amazing race – keep it up gentlemen,” tweeted Haitian-born rapper and singer Wyclef Jean. Shakira, a Lebanese-born Colombian pop singer, celebrated with a one-line tweet: “This time for Africa!”

There was excitement in Tunisia on Saturday after hundreds of Moroccan fans gathered outside the municipal theater in the capital, Tunis, honking their horns as they drove along the main road.

Waving Tunisian, Moroccan and Palestinian flags, supporters of the rival North African team danced and chanted slogans hailing the Atlas Lions.

“It is a source of pride that the Moroccan team achieves for the first time in the history of Arab and African football,” said Ahmed Ben Messaoud in Tunis.

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