As the first African and first Arab country to reach the World Cup semifinals, Morocco’s soccer team now represents so much more than its own nation as its achievements have united a region and continent in celebration.
The Moroccan flag was displayed in cities all around the world on Saturday, as fans celebrated the Atlas Lions’ historic 1-0 victory over Portugal.
Videos on social media show car horns blaring long into the night in Casablanca; crowds dancing in London’s Trafalgar Square; streets packed with people in Rabat; fans celebrating in Paris, as well as halls of Moroccan fans erupting with joy when Youssef En-Nesyri’s header found the back of the net and again at the final whistle.
Political leaders from around the world also hailed the Atlas Lions, who have now defeated Belgium, Spain and Portugal – all ranked inside the top 10 of FIFA’s world rankings – in this tournament.
Chad’s President Mahamat Idriss Deby said on Twitter: “Historic and extraordinary! The qualification of the Atlas Lions for the semi-final of the 2022 world is that of all Africa. Full support to the representatives of Africa for the grand finale. Africa world champion, yes it is possible inchallah!”
Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid tweeted: “No voice is louder than Morocco’s in the World Cup!”
“We share the joy of our brothers,” tweeted Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani.
“We rejoice when the Arabs rejoice,” said Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, per Reuters, and hailed a “historic” victory.
The two rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas also sent congratulations, according to Reuters.
Libya’s Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah tweeted: “Congratulations to the Moroccan national team for their historic qualification to the World Cup semi-finals,” alongside an emoji of the Moroccan flag.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II congratulated King Mohammed VI of Morocco via a phone call and wished the team “success in the remaining matches,” the Royal Hashemite Court’s Twitter account said.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry tweeted: “Sincere heartfelt congratulations to the brotherly kingdom of Morocco.”
“I congratulate the Atlas Lions on their win today and becoming the first African and Arab team to ever reach the semi-finals of the World Cup,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted.
Three African countries had reached the quarterfinals before – Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010 – but had all fallen agonizingly short of a spot in the semifinals.
Morocco’s success marks a hugely significant moment in the history of African football, and one that was lauded by some of the continent’s biggest footballing stars.
“CONTINENTAL HISTORY!… What an achievement by the Atlas Lions,” the Confederation of African Football tweeted.
“They did it!!!! Well done Morocco for this feat. Long live Africa,” tweeted retired Ivorian star Didier Drogba.
Samuel Eto’o, the former Cameroon striker and current president of the country’s football federation, said on Twitter: “Incredible! …The entire continent is rooting for you.”
Even pop star Shakira joined in the celebrations, tweeting, “This time for Africa!!” in reference to her song used as during the 2010 World Cup, with a clapping emoji and a Moroccan flag.