Moroccan fans in the UAE excited as women's side on brink of more World Cup history

Supporters share their pride in the Atlas Lionesses at this year's tournament Down Under

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Excitement among Moroccan football fans in the UAE is reaching fever pitch as their team enter the final game of their Women’s World Cup group stages.

Victory in their final group fixture against Colombia on Thursday (2pm, UAE time) could see the Atlas Lionesses advance to the knockout stages - the first for an Arab side that is making a nice habit of creating history at this year's tournament.

Supporters in the UAE have spoken of the pride they share in their side's achievements in the Women's World Cup.

The entire world will be watching, but most importantly, Morocco will be cheering
Hicham Hansali

The mood among fans is one of hope, fuelled by their nation's dramatic win over South Korea last week.

Football in Morocco is in the limelight right now. It was in December the nation made everyone sit up and take notice by making the semi-finals of the men's World Cup in Qatar.

The women's Morocco team has already made history, becoming the first Arab nation to qualify for a Women's World Cup. Fans based in the UAE are hoping there is more to come.

“We are proud to be the first Arab team to ever participate in a Women's World Cup. They might make history at this tournament like our men did in Qatar last year,” said Moufdi Karim.

“We lived our best moment with the men's team and our hope is the women's team will bring back that joy to all Arab nations.”

The 47-year-old Dubai-based fan said Morocco has talented players but their match against Colombia would be a tough encounter.

The task ahead is especially daunting as Morocco suffered a heavy defeat to Germany in their opening fixture.

The same German side were beaten by Colombia in the next game.

“Despite Colombia defeating Germany, everything is possible in football and we can beat Colombia to qualify to the knockout stage," he said.

"We have skilled players and some of them are playing in top European clubs, too.”

Even if the results do not go Morocco's way on Thursday, the side has already created more history.

Nouhaila Benzina became the first player to wear a hijab at a World Cup in the game against South Korea.

“We are making history. Our player Nouhaila Benzina became the first to wear a hijab during a match," said Mr Karim.

Hicham Hansali, 49, a football coach at Al Wasl FC in Dubai, spoke of the excitement the women's team had created.

“What the women did in this World Cup will be in our minds forever, especially after winning [against] South Korea," said Mr Hansali.

"That win revived the confidence among the players after losing their first match against Germany."

He said the chances of qualifying for the next phase were slim as they need to beat Colombia and hope Germany lose against South Korea. The two matches will kick off simultaneously.

However, he refused to be anything but positive.

“The entire world will be watching, but most importantly, Morocco will be cheering,” he added.

Mahid Ali, a 32-year-old Moroccan fan based in Sharjah, said he was disappointed when the team lost against Germany but after their latest win, the fans have united in optimism.

“Excitement and enthusiasm are reaching a fever pitch. Moroccans from all walks of life have come together to show their unwavering support, with the male team's achievement still in our memory,” Mr Ali said.

He said he would go to a cafe in Dubai to watch the match with his friends, bringing along their national flag.

“As Morocco will face the world's best teams, they can rest assured that an entire nation stands firmly behind them, cheering them on as they aim to make more history,” he added.

The rise of the Moroccan women’s team goes hand-in-hand with the success of the country's female referees, who have made huge strides in breaking the long-standing male monopoly on football officiating.

Three female Moroccan football referees, Bouchra Karboubi, Fatiha Jermoumi and Soukaina Hamdi, were selected for the Women’s World Cup.

Updated: August 03, 2023, 3:24 AM