‘Players can walk with their heads held high,' say Moroccan fans after World Cup exit

Fans of the Atlas Lionesses react with joy and pride despite defeat to France in last-16

Nesryne El Chad, left, and Sarah Kassi embrace after losing to France in the Women's World Cup with Nouhaila Benzina in the background. Sarah Reed / Getty Images
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Moroccan football fans said they were proud of the historic achievements of their national team during the Fifa Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, despite their exit from the tournament on Tuesday.

Morocco were defeated 4-0 by a highly fancied French side but that result has done nothing to dampen the mood among supporters of the first Arab side to qualify for the competition.

“Despite losing against France, we are so proud of our team,” said 47-year-old fan Moufdi Karim.

“They faced a strong team and gave it their all. They showed incredible spirit and heart.

“They can walk with their heads held high.”

Further solace can be taken from the fact that Morocco reached the knockout stages of the tournament, a huge achievement for a side in their first World Cup, he added.

“They won two matches in the group which gave us hope they might even reach the quarter finals,” said Mr Karim, who lives in Dubai.

“They played well and the memories of their efforts and the pride they instilled in the fans will linger on.”

Reaching the last-16 of the competition was an even greater feat, as the side had lost their opening fixture 6-0 to Germany, he said.

Subsequent victories against South Korea and Colombia propelled Morocco to the later stages of the competition.

The Atlas Lionesses were the first Arab side to qualify for the Fifa Women’s World Cup.

Fatin Mukhtar, another Moroccan living in Dubai, said the team’s journey would inspire young girls across the country.

“The team's tenacity on the field has resonated deeply with fans. They left an indelible mark in our hearts. More girls will be inspired to practice sports especially football,” she said.

“The players' accomplishments were a testament to their dedication and determination.

“We want them to feel proud and turn this defeat into a victory in the future.”

Moroccan fans are becoming more accustomed to being able to cheer on their football teams in World Cup tournaments.

Last December, the men's side became the first African and Arab side to reach the semi-finals of the tournament.

Qatar was a sea of red and green during the progression of the Atlas Lions, with their jubilant supporters capturing hearts and minds along the way.

One of those supporters was Mohammed Al Sharafi, who became one of the stories of the Qatar World Cup himself.

A Dubai dentist noticed Mr Al Sharafi was receiving abuse about his teeth online after he was caught on camera at one of the games.

The dentist gave him new set of teeth, all expenses paid, after he tracked him down via social media.

Mr Al Sharafi also showed his support for his country's women's side.

“Our women became another source of joy in Morocco by qualifying to the knockout stage. They are a pride to all Arabs,” Mr Al Sharafi, 56, said.

“They were nervous as they appeared for the first time in a World Cup, but we had brilliant matches and proved that we can be strong contenders in future tournaments.”

He was unable to attend the games in Australia but that did not stop him from cheering the side on from his home country.

“I want to thank the players and the coach for what they have done,” he said.

Updated: August 08, 2023, 4:56 PM