Mohammed Badr was at Education City Stadium watching Morocco reach their first World Cup quarter-final. On the way to Msheireb, he fell asleep and stared at the roof of a subway portcullis, a world away from the lively discussion about the match against Spain, the drama of the tiebreaker and the phones flashing by to show celebratory videos.
Mohammed is two months old. “Possibly the youngest fan in tonight’s game,” father Rachidi said as Mohammed, looking content with a duvet, was carried from his mother’s lap to a pram. Kneeling in the opposite seat, and wearing a red shirt that said Hakimi on the back, Khansa, Mohammed’s four-year-old sister, counted from 1 to 20, smiling every time she saw a passenger nod in approval.
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The Badrs are from Meknes, in northern Morocco, but have been in Doha for the past 10 years. Also Mohammed Haij and his wife, but his mother Zahara has traveled to the World Cup from Casablanca. A recent knee operation meant that Zahara, who appeared to be in her seventies, needed support to walk, but that didn’t stop her from being on the ground. “She has been in all four of Morocco’s games and now we are looking for tickets to the quarterfinals (against Portugal on Saturday). Inshallah! We will get them.
Before the World Cup started, Morocco was in the top 10 countries for ticket sales. After making it past the group stage, their first since 1986, when they lost 1-0 to West Germany after beating Portugal 3-1 earlier, demand has skyrocketed. Morocco’s soccer federation said it distributed 5,000 tickets to Moroccans in Doha, but queues at FIFA’s Main Ticket Center at the Doha Convention and Exhibition Center in Al Sadd have been long since the Atlas Lions left. undefeated in the group league. There have been reports of tickets priced at $55 for the game against Spain being offered for $1000 by scalpers.
On Tuesday, as Portugal’s Goncalo Ramos scored the first hat-trick of this edition, people honked their car horns shouting ‘Long live Morocco’ and drove convertibles in front of the National Museum of Qatar with the red and green flag of Morocco waving in a warm night And Moroccan supporters had taken over Souk Waqif. Red was the predominant color as people, either in Morocco T-shirts or with the flag hanging, crept through the area lined with restaurants and shops selling everything from cane furniture to Kane T-shirts.
They were at the Al Meera World Cup knick-knack stand, pouring through its boutique hotels and filling its restaurants – in one of them a man in an Argentina jersey was conspicuous by his presence – and shisha bars. And they were singing in the main market square where the television companies have set up studios for the World Cup. Going quickly there were small flags of Morocco available for 10 riyals at a corner shop.
Although wearing a Moroccan headscarf, with his white tunic, Saad stood out from the vomiting crowd at the Souk Waqif station. He said that he was from Saudi Arabia and explained the difference between a Qatari man’s thobe and what he was wearing. “It’s subtle,” he said. “There are differences in design. The ones we wear generally don’t have shirt collars.”
Saad said he was at the match, the second after England-Senegal. “I couldn’t take time off work for the Saudi Arabian games, but I really wanted to be here to support Morocco tonight,” he said. “They represented us and all the Arab countries.”
Walid Regragui wants this to continue. “I think it’s impossible to do what we did without fans buying tickets and coming to Qatar from the US and so many other places. I need them for the quarterfinals. The people of Qatar, Algerians, Tunisians and other countries in the Arab region have contributed a lot to our success”, said the Morocco coach.
With a squad in which 14 players were born outside of Morocco and grew up absorbing the football cultures of, among others, the Netherlands, Spain and France -this World Cup featured more than 130 players who were not born in the country where they played-, Regragrui He said he has “created a milkshake”. There was a time when people asked him why he didn’t focus on picking Moroccan-born players. Not anymore.