Inside the Al Thumama Stadium in Qatar, thousands of Morocco fans stood with their hands outstretched above their heads during the quarter-final against Portugal.
The whistles, applause and jeers gave way to complete silence. A cough could be heard at the other end of the stadium.
Then, a drum beats and applause is heard. Fans, clad in the familiar red and green of Morocco, clap their hands in unison, creating a thunderous noise that echoes around the stadium as they shout “sir,” which means “forward,” before falling silent again.
Clap your hands, “sir.” The process is repeated a few seconds later, with the sound rumbling and echoing throughout the stadium as the Moroccan players attack Portugal on Saturday.
The applause becomes more frequent, eventually reaching a rousing crescendo followed by a post-climactic round of applause of thanks.
Moroccan fans’ use of this so-called “Viking clap” epitomizes their passion for their team at the 2022 World Cup.
Arguably one of the liveliest groups of fans in the tournament, they have fervently cheered on the Atlas Lions to the steady beat of their drums throughout all four World Cup matches.
This is the kind of CLAP you’ll get when you earn your first knockout qualification in 36 years.
— Statman Diligent Ali 🤭 (@alidiligent39) December 1, 2022
What is the viking clap?
Icelandic fans were seen performing the Viking clap at Euro 2016 which took place in France. A large crowd of Icelandic fans would hang back after the game to applaud with their players.
The strong and intimidating sight made such a visceral impression at the tournament that French fans and players began to interpret it after their matches.
The origins of the clap are hard to pin down and probably didn’t start on the Icelandic shores.
Videos have surfaced of fans of French club Lens clapping while shouting their team’s name a few years ahead of Euro 2016. Supporters of Scottish team Motherwell, apparently inspired by a scene from the movie 300, have also been clapping. Similary. for many years.
Since Iceland used the clap at the 2016 European Championship, its popularity has spread across the world and can now be heard at Kerala Blasters games in India and among supporters of Perspolis Football Club in Iran.
There may be parallels to Iceland’s unexpected success at Euro 2016, where they reached the quarter-finals, beating England en route.
Morocco have reached the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in their history, beating second-place Belgium and eliminating Spain in the process.
The tailored applause is an apt reflection of how massive and loud Morocco’s support has been throughout the tournament.
If you want to understand the importance of the 12th man, look no further than the Moroccan fans 🇲🇦 at this World Cup. His support is immense.
They have come by the thousands to the stadiums. Many live in Qatar, while others flew in from Morocco and around the world. Dima Maghreb. pic.twitter.com/Wqym9qcDR4
—Usher Komugisha (@UsherKomugisha) December 7, 2022
“I feel very enthusiastic and very proud of my country. I love Morocco, and when I hear all of us singing and clapping together, I want to support the team even more, no matter how badly it is playing,” said Marwa Mifta, a 38-year-old doctor from Rabat, in the match against Portugal.
Reda el-Harrachi, 30, said that when he hears the thunder inside the stadium, he gets “goosebumps everywhere.”
Alasdair Howorth, a journalist specializing in African football, believes that the Moroccan fans have made this World Cup a “home tournament” for their team.
“You cannot underestimate how great the Moroccan and Tunisian fans have been at this World Cup,” Howorth said, adding that the media put a lot of scrutiny on Qatar and this World Cup, but that “it hasn’t been talked about as much. Enough is how important it is to have a World Cup in the Arab world.”
The support they have received in Qatar, the ease of travel to and around the country and the sizeable diasporas have resulted in what Howorth describes as a “real connection” between the fans and this World Cup.
“Morocco has one of the best fan cultures in the world in terms of passion,” he says. “I think it’s brilliant that the world has finally seen it because it’s been there for a long time.”
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