Morocco fans hail World Cup heroes for 'bringing happiness to our hearts'

The Atlas Lions became the first team representing the Arab world to make the semi-finals

Tarik Haidar offers his thanks to Morocco's World Cup heroes. Ali Al Shouk/ The National
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Morocco fans have hailed their national side as 'champions of the tournament' after their history-making run to the World Cup semi-finals.

The Atlas Lions ended their remarkable journey with defeat to Croatia in the third-place play-off on Saturday.

But their passionate supporters believe their giant-killing exploits, in which they saw off Belgium, Spain and Portugal, have been a source of pride for all of Africa and the Arab world.

The Qatar World Cup has shown Morocco to be a hotbed of football, and the country aims to capitalise on its time in the spotlight with its hosting of next year's Club World Cup.

“I’m thankful for what Morocco has achieved in the World Cup. We are now part of World Cup history,” said Morocco fan Rachid Bellaziz outside Khalifa City Stadium, the venue for the team's 2-1 loss to the Croatians.

The 26-year-old felt it was a game too far for players drained by their thrilling achievements during the festival of football.

“We became popular in the world as the first Arabic and African team to qualify for the semi-final. We have young players who will be aiming for a better result in the next World Cup.

“I feel that we are the champion of the tournament.”

Fans remain in full voice

Supporters were chanting “Morocco, Morocco” after the match and sang from the journey to the stadium to the metro before gathering at Souq Waqif to celebrate late into the night.

Wafaa Daoui believes Morocco can be a title contender once more at World Cup 2026, which will be held across the US, Mexico and Canada.

“It is a historic victory. We wished we could reach the final match or third place, but in the next World Cup, we will be there as candidates to win the title. We are proud that Morocco united all Arab nations who supported us,” said Ms Daoui.

“Proud of them, that’s how I feel tonight. They brought happiness to our hearts. I never had such a feeling in my life.”

She said the class of 2022 will be role models for future generations of Moroccan footballers.

Tarik Haidar, a Sudanese fan who travelled from Dubai to Doha to support Morocco, carried a placard with a mesage to the players saying: ‘Thank you heroes for the great tournament. From Sudan.’

“I watched four matches for Morocco in this World Cup. They made us proud and I felt I should come to support them,” said the 34-year-old fan.

“Despite losing to France and Croatia they were fighters and we supported them till the end.”

Updated: December 18, 2022, 9:29 AM