Morocco’s performance at the World Cup takes people out of football’s standard narrative

Moroccan players celebrate after winning the World Cup quarter-final match between Morocco and Portugal at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Dec. 10.Associated Press

At one time, writers and artists from Europe and North America found inspiration in Morocco. From Mark Twain to Jack Kerouac and the Beat poets, they went there for the weather, the drugs, the scenery and the sheer exoticism. In Morocco, Twain wrote, he and his wife discovered that “nothing reminds us of any other man or any other land under the sun.”

Now everyone is jumping on the bandwagon in Morocco, their enthusiasm has been unmatched since Crosby, Stills and Nash sang Marrakech Express Passionately back to 1969. Morocco, which stunned the world at this World Cup in Qatar, is now the last African team to represent Africa and the Arab world.It faces world champions France in the semi-finals and although the odds are good it could end up in the world cup at last. Whatever happens, it’s in the Final Four.

Did it happen suddenly? Yes. Nobody paid attention to Morocco beforehand. In Canada, it is widely believed that Morocco is a team that the Canadian men’s team can beat. how innocent.

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How and why Morocco succeeded is a complex matter. It’s not playing entertaining football with endless attacks with silky moves. It defends, holds the ball short and scores on quick counter-attacks. As every pundit is now explaining, coach Validre Graj has ordered his team to use a 4-1-4-1 formation. The back four seldom charged forward, while midfielder Sofian Amrabat in front of them almost never left the space around him, concentrating on stopping opponents even before they met the defenders. The four-man midfield also sits deep. However, it’s not exactly the “parking” tactic some teams use to stop opponents from attacking. The bus comes to life and sprints forward if and only if there is a direct route to its destination.

This is collectivist football at its best; goals are aligned and the team takes precedence over the individual. And it’s not the only one. A disciplined and cooperative Greek team won Euro 2004, relying on defense and the occasional set-piece goal. Former Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni famously said: “Greece won the European Cup with 3 free-kicks and 1 corner.”

Unusually and complicatedly, Morocco relies on its diaspora — Morocco is a country of 37 million people, yet 14 of their 26 players were born elsewhere. That means some players could have played for the country they were born in, but they didn’t. Now, this in itself is far from unique. England’s Declan Rice and Jack Grealish both played for their parents or grandparents’ native Republic of Ireland but chose to play for England when the opportunity arose.

What’s really different about Morocco is that unlike Rice and Grealish, who opted for more money, exposure and stardom in England, one of Morocco’s best players, Chelsea midfielder Hakimzi Yeher was called up to play for the Netherlands, his birthplace, at senior level, opting instead to play for his parents’ country.

As such, you can surmise that a key factor in Morocco’s success has been the sense of solidarity among the players in the diaspora. Their allegiance is to where their families were born, not to countries where they might face racist abuse on the field as players, and hostility or racism to their parents as immigrants. Such resentment will not abate until generations of people moderate their lives in the countries their parents or grandparents fled to, and they live in ghettos and work the low-paying jobs that immigrants do. In this case, Moroccan identity is a comfort and an emotional unifying force. Ideal conditions for a collectivist approach.

Morocco’s success is imbued with strong emotions for home and family. Remember when Team Canada was negotiating compensation for participating in this World Cup?A key item on the agenda is travel packages for friends and family Qatar. Boy, does this have anything to do with Morocco? The mothers of the Moroccan national team were in the spotlight as, after a few games, scenes or pictures of players kissing their mothers’ heads or dancing and hugging them received as much attention as goals and victories.

The mothers left the stands to celebrate with their sons on the pitch. Manager Regragui has made a habit of walking through supporters to find and hug his mother, who worked for many years as a cleaner at Paris-Orly Airport, where the manager was born. Whatever it costs Morocco to bring your family to Qatar, it’s worth it. The relationship between mother and son is not complicated, but it is part of the complex fuel that propels this Moroccan team to extraordinary heights.

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