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Ecstatic fans watch World Cup victory not for Morocco ‘but for all Arabs’

Doha, Qatar – There is only one show at the Al Thumama stadium – it is the Lions de l’Atlas (Atlas Lions).

After what can only be described as a lively contest with plenty of fouls, Morocco’s Sara Sulaiman says she is “elated” as Morocco advanced to the round of 16, beating Canada 2-1, with goals from Hakim Ziyech and Youssef En- Nesyri proving to be enough for the classification.

This marks the first time since 1986 that the North African nation has reached the knockout stage of the tournament. It is also the only Arab country out of four to do so in 2022.

“I’m not just over the moon, I’m way above it. It is an incredible achievement for our small nation,” Sulaiman told Al Jazeera.

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Canada vs Morocco,
Morocco is in the round of 16 of the World Cup, thrilling its fans and ensuring the departure of Canada, on December 1, 2022, at the Al Thumama Stadium [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

The 28-year-old Moroccan from Fez says she thinks Atlas Lions “definitely” have a chance to go further in the tournament.

“I think we can win more, maybe even the tournament,” she says with a laugh, later adding that whatever happens now, she is “very proud” of the team.

“They have already made us very happy. I don’t want to push any further,” she says.

Malek Alami, a Moroccan from Marrakech, says today’s victory was the “happiest moment of his life”.

“I have no words, just many feelings, all happy. This is an incredible achievement for us,” says Alami, adding that the qualification “will unite our country.”

Canada vs Morocco, Group F
Morocco defeated Canada on December 1, 2022 at Al Thumama Stadium [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

The 37-year-old tour coordinator says there will be non-stop celebrations at home.

“The party will continue until Fajr [the dawn prayer for Muslims]today,” says Alami.

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Many fans stayed after the game and continued their celebrations outside the stadium gates.

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“Always Morocco,” they cheered while laughing with friends and family and, of course, taking selfies to mark the historic occasion.

Hundreds of revelers gathered near the FIFA music stage, many carrying their children on their shoulders, chanting “Long live the Maghreb” or “Long live Morocco.”

On the pitch, the Moroccan players raised the Palestinian flag in solidarity with the occupied country, something that the fans have also done throughout the tournament.

Canada vs Morocco
The Atlas Lions top their group after defeating Canada on December 1, 2022 at Al Thumama Stadium [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Meanwhile, the Great White North fans were less optimistic as they resigned themselves to their team’s exit from the tournament after losing their previous two games.

“I think it was a good match. It’s not fun to lose,” Kelly White, 44, told Al Jazeera.

“But this tournament for us was to show the world that we are [a football] nation. We can compete at the highest level”, he adds. “Hopefully we will be better in 2026 when Canada hosts. I can not wait!”

Even before kickoff, the atmosphere at the nearly 45,000-capacity venue was electrifying.

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Moroccan fans, who have been enthusiastically supporting their national team throughout the tournament, slowly made their way to the venue in several large groups, singing and dancing to Arabic and French songs, including C’est la vie by Algerian singer Khaled. , To lift the mood.

Once the game started, every Atlas Lions breakthrough was hailed with thunderous roars. The North African supporters booed and booed loudly whenever their team was fouled.

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“This is a great victory, not only for Morocco but for all Arabs,” Mohammed Hisham from Marrakech tells Al Jazeera.

“All my friends from Tunisia, Lebanon or Qatar are behind us,” adds the 36-year-old who lives in Doha.

“For the World Cup to be in the Middle East is already a great achievement, now this qualification is remarkable.”

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