Morocco’s soft power takes boost from Atlas Lions soccer breakthrough
Morocco’s influence in the continent and beyond has received a boost thanks to the well-deserved qualification of the Atlas Lions to the semi-finals, a watershed in Africa’s soccer history that triggered an outpouring of joy in Moroccan streets and beyond.
The confidence of national coach Walid Regragui and players on the pitch send a message of confidence and pride to Morocco, a nation that without oil and gas could build a solid sports infrastructure while harnessing the skills of its players at home and abroad gearing that towards defending the national flag.
The focus of Moroccan coach and players has been to raise Morocco’s flag high among the best football nations but also to honor African football, a message that reverberated across the continent where thousands have also taken to the street to celebrate Morocco’s unrivalled performance in the history of African football.
African leaders from Gabon, Senegal and Mauritania in addition to officials of the African Union have together with Arab leaders, the Turkish president and US Secretary of state sent congratulatory messages to the King and to the Moroccan people after the qualification to the semi-finals.
Globally renowned artists and businessmen such as Shakira and Elon Musk have congratulated Morocco as the first African country to become one of the best four football nations.
The exception was in Tunis and Algiers whose leaders preferred to stay silent as their neighbor Morocco writes history in Qatar. Worst, Algerian regime censored Morocco on its media. But the victories of Morocco and the strong bond between Moroccans and Algerians overcame the regime’s attempts to sow discord as hundreds in different Algerian cities descended to streets to celebrate.
Some members of the Algerian special forces have even made a video chanting brotherliness with Moroccans as hundreds travelled to the border post where they can see from a distance and congratulate Moroccan peers.
The World Cup has also been a chance to celebrate the Moroccan flag and national symbols at home, in Qatar and across global capitals. Moroccans through their celebrations draw a portrait of a united nation in its diversity and a proud people that is intent on competing at the global stage.
“We deserve. We work hard. It’s not over. There’s still the semi-final and, God willing, the final,” said Regragui at a news conference.
The Moroccan squad is not only backed by Moroccans, Arabs and Africans but by people from different corners of the world who are happy to see the power of hard work and self-confidence.
“What’s important for future generations is we’ve shown that it is possible for an African team to get to the semi-finals of the World Cup. Or even the final, why not?” said Regragui
“Three or four matches ago, I was asked if we could win the World Cup. And I said, ‘why not?’ We can dream. Why shouldn’t we dream? If you don’t dream, you don’t get anywhere. It doesn’t cost you anything”
“European countries are used to winning the World Cup, so we’re going to have to try and get in there – and go beyond ourselves.”