World Cup 2022: when a 2006 film predicted Morocco’s semi-final

This is the story of a supporter who had seen things before everyone else. Narjiss Nejjar, a Moroccan screenwriter and director, created a film in 2006 that went unnoticed by the general public. In Wake Up Morocco, the Moroccan national team reached, for the first time in its history, the semi-finals of the World Cup. In this cinematographic opus, the spectator is immersed in a journey through time, paying homage to the former sporting glories of the land of Sunset.

Sixteen years later, reality catches up with fiction. Even more surprisingly, former Atlas Lions player and current coach Walid Regragui played himself in this experimental film. Also in the cast is the novelist Leïla Slimani, Prix Goncourt 2016.

A film that did not find its audience

Faced with numerous requests from the Moroccan press, fascinated by this crazy story, the director Narjiss Nejjar expressed herself, via a message published on her Facebook account, Monday, December 12. Yes, Morocco in the final I dreamed of eighteen years ago, yes the national team in an immense outpouring of generosity agreed to participate in the film free of charge », she remembers.

The filmmaker recalls how much this film was an obstacle course, “both in terms of production, staging and distribution”. At the time, few exhibitors believed in this project, arguing that the film would not make entries. Narjiss Nejjar remembers: “The film was seen as misleading, not believable. » According to his feedback, the fact of seeing the Moroccan selection in the semi-finals of a World Cup was then a matter of “pure utopia. »

A message of hope

At a time when Morocco is preparing to face the French team for a place in the World Cup final, the director wants to be optimistic and salutes the already successful course of her selection. “The victory of our national team is a lesson in hope but above all in determination and solidarity. »“Never let go of your dreams, keep them well anchored and do not lose sight of them or lose them in your heart”, writes Narjiss Nejjar for Moroccan youth.

In the meantime, the 2006 film finds a second youth. Available on YouTube since Monday, December 12, it has been viewed more than 38,000 times in the space of a few hours. Proof of the enthusiasm aroused by the unprecedented and historical epic of Morocco.



France-Morocco, the Champs-Élysées under high surveillance

France or Morocco? Whoever wins the World Cup semi-final on Wednesday, December 14, fans can come sing or honk their horns on the Champs-Élysées. The Ministry of the Interior did not accede to the request of the town hall of 8e district of Paris, which wanted the closure of the famous artery from 8 p.m. But the capital will be placed under the surveillance of 2,200 police officers, 700 more than those mobilized on Saturday December 10 after the Morocco-Portugal and France-England matches.

A “visible and dissuasive” police presence

A total of 10,000 police and gendarmes will be mobilized throughout the country. At the National Assembly, Minister Gérald Darmanin indicated, on Tuesday, December 13, his desire “to frame these often family demonstrations of joy, in a context of terrorist threat”.

If the Champs-Élysées will remain open, “a large part of the ring road doors will no doubt be closed from 6:30 p.m.”as well as several metro and RER stations. “The police will ensure a visible and dissuasive presence to prevent dangerous behavior, acts of vandalism and aggression, in the immediate perimeter, but also more in depth on the surrounding axes”, specifies the Paris police headquarters.

Last Saturday, many people expressed their joy after Morocco’s victory against Portugal. In the vast majority of cases, these celebrations took place in a festive and peaceful spirit.

One hundred people arrested in Paris on Saturday

On the Champs-Élysées, where nearly 20,000 people had gathered, some tensions arose at the end of the evening. “Projectiles were thrown at the security forces, three two-wheeled vehicles were set on fire and a barricade was erected”indicated the prefecture, specifying that no “significant incident has not been reported”.

According to the Paris prosecutor’s office, one hundred people were arrested and eighty, including seventeen minors, were placed in police custody. In adults, thirty procedures were classified without follow-up. Elsewhere in France, seventy people were arrested (in police areas), mainly for throwing projectiles, insults or rebellion.

It is difficult to measure the proportion of Morocco supporters among the troublemakers. “A few may have been involved in incidents. But it is not these supporters who are to blame. As with every festive or protest demonstration, we actually see individuals taking advantage of the opportunity to attack the police, break street furniture or “do their shopping”, i.e. to rob isolated people. in the crowd “, indicates Frédéric Lagache, general delegate of the Alliance police union.

“With us, everyone behaves properly”

In Bordeaux, Kader Beya remains calm before this semi-final. This Franco-Moroccan manages the Crystal, a café in the city center which will welcome supporters of both teams. “We will install them in two different rooms. Moroccan supporters will be welcomed in a first room with a folk group. And a DJ will host the evening in the second scheduled for French supporters,” says the boss.

It was not the fear of incidents that led him to separate the fans of the two camps in this way. “We just wanted to create two different atmospheres to please everyone. With us, everyone behaves properly. For the quarter-final on Saturday, we received 200 to 250 people, including Portuguese supporters, and everything went well,” says Kader Beya.

The latter recognizes, however, that after the meeting, a few incidents took place in a nearby square. “Often, people who come to see a match with us then go out to party in this square, he adds. And we try to manage them. But on Saturday, we were a little overwhelmed by a very small minority of young people who were there to make a mess. We are the first to deplore this unacceptable behavior. »

If Morocco wins, its supporters gathered at the Crystal will stay in the establishment to celebrate the event. “Indeed, we do not want to be associated with any excesses that are not our fault, said Kader Beya. This match is a real party and must remain so. Whichever team goes to the final. »



2022 World Cup: the dilemma of Franco-Moroccans

“Excited, that’s for sure, but I also have a little feeling of unease! », exclaims Hicham immediately. This Franco-Moroccan, football fan, has his heart split in two. If he is delighted with the unprecedented opposition in official competition between Morocco and France, Wednesday, December 14, in the semi-finals of the World Cup in Qatar, the latter hesitates as to his prognosis. “I don’t know which winner to choose. In any case, I will be happy, in any case, I will be a little sad. »

Such a poster was “unimaginable” for Yassine El Yattioui, also Franco-Moroccan. “Few dual nationals know the anthems of both countries by heart. This is my case and this moment will necessarily be a special moment”, he slips moved.

Little Thumb’s Love

For this doctoral student in political science, the wish for victory is clearer: “Of course I have a favourite: Morocco. I support them without denigrating the Blues, who have always made me dream. “You have to understand that, in Morocco, the fervor is even greater than during the 1998 World Cup when the Blues were nevertheless playing at home, he details. In my country of origin, everyone breathes football, it is the second religion of the country, even if it is undoubtedly blasphemous to say that! »

For the researcher, the preference of many Franco-Moroccans for the Atlas Lions, the first African nation to climb to this stage of the competition, is explained above all by a historical reason. “Morocco in the final, it may never happen again, while France would go to the final for the fourth time in less than twenty-five years… they have to leave their place to others!” »

“The choice of Morocco is also explained by the relationship we have with the national teamadds Mounir, another binational supporter. In France, it is in our character to like to hit the Blues. In Morocco, there is a kind of unshakable pride around the selection even though the results have not always followed. »

For the Atlas Lions, the world already seems successful. “We were promised hell in the group of deathrecalls Mounir. And now we eliminate Spain and then Portugal, it marks history forever. “Geopolitically speaking, it’s extraordinary, adds Yassine El Yattioui. There is an Africanism and an Arabism that have been created around the Moroccan team because it is somewhere a selection from the Third World that has made it to the semi-finals. »

Outbursts and popular festival

Nothing seems to be able to spoil the excitement of supporters. Not even the words of Jordan Bardella, president of the National Rally, according to which many binationals were more inhabited by a feeling of revenge against France than by a sporting spirit. “The prism of the RN does not seem to make the difference between countries like Algeria, Tunisia or Morocco, when they do not have the same history, analysis Yassine El Yattioui. Moroccans have no spirit of revenge against France at all. »“Morocco and France are friendly countries, we must not politicize everything”abounds Mounir.

The remarks of the far right maintain the idea that excesses could again take place on the sidelines of the match. “You have to be realistic, in any case, it will be a mess, laughs Hicham. There are always morons, but those who will be disappointed with the result on Wednesday will also be in the streets and in the bars on Sunday (December 18) to support the team that will advance to the final. »

” TO Lyon, where I was for the quarter-final, I saw CRS dancing with French supporters and Moroccan supporters who had qualified on the same daytestifies for his part Yassine El Yattioui. I want to see the same images on Wednesday! »



World Cup 2022: Moroccans sad but proud, after the defeat of the Atlas Lions

“You can’t even imagine how proud we are. » Yassine went out to celebrate on the Place des Nations-Unies, in the heart of Casablanca, despite the defeat of the Atlas Lions against France 2 to 0, a few minutes earlier, Wednesday, December 14, in the semi-final of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. “The team has had a historic journey. My mother, for example, has nothing to do with football. She has become their biggest supporter and she came with me to see the match tonight! I could not believe my eyes ! »continues Yassine.

Lions made history

Wednesday evening, after the meeting, faces were marked by sadness mixed with pride. Some still left to honk their horns, flag in hand. Others came out to sing and dance. Even if the atmosphere had nothing to do with that of the victories against Spain in the round of 16 and then Portugal in the quarter. A human tide had poured into the streets of the country and the Moroccans had burst into immense joy.

His spectacular series of victories led the Moroccan team to the semi-finals against the French, the reigning world champions. The Lions thus made history by becoming the first African, Arab team to reach this level. And it is all of Africa and the Arab world that supported them fervently.

Football, almost a religion

A few hours before the match, the country was feverish. In Morocco, where football is almost a religion, everyone has lived to the rhythm of the meetings of the Lions. Some came home early from work. Others have reserved their seats in cafes. At the start of the meeting at 8 p.m., the streets emptied, and the whole kingdom stopped breathing.

The Moroccan team impressed once again, standing up to Mbappé’s Blues, despite the injury of their captain Romain Saïss, who left prematurely. Achraf Hakimi and Hakim Ziyech’s teammates shook the French defense but failed to put the ball in the back of the net. The second French goal by Kolo Muani, in the 79th minute, came as a crushing blow for the Moroccans massed in cafes and in front of their television.

During the last minutes of the meeting, the national television presenter became the spokesperson for an entire people: “You have had a wonderful journey. Thank you ! »he launched, his voice trembling with emotion.

“We will get there next time inshallah! »

If, at the final whistle, some contest the strategy put in place this time by coach Walid Regragui, the latter was heartily applauded at each appearance on the screen. In a few weeks, the Franco-Moroccan coach has become a real star in the country. “For me, France was stronger”believes Hicham just after the meeting, who nevertheless judges “that she was well helped by the referee…”. For Mustafa, on the other hand, “the two teams were at the same level, but France had more luck”.

Morocco still has to play the small final for third place on Saturday. He will face Croatia. “I’m so happy that they reached the semi-final. But it was hard to watch them lose. I cried about it”launches Imane, 18, wrapped in a large Moroccan flag. “Throughout this competition, I was proud to be Moroccan,” she continues. We began to hope to win the cup! We will get there next time inshallah! »



World Cup 2022: the Blues overcome Morocco and will challenge Argentina in the final

How complicated it was. The French team, reigning world champion, put an end to the Moroccan dream after a very close match, winning 2 goals to 0, Wednesday, December 14th. A timid victory in response to that, more convincing, of Argentina against Croatia, the day before (3 goals to 0). The two nations will meet on Sunday December 18 in the World Cup final in Qatar, to dream of a third star.

To succeed in a world, the custom is to say that a defender of the team must score at least once during the competition. The tireless Théo Hernandez understood this well by putting the French team on the right track from the 5e minute, with a very pretty and acrobatic recovery, after a cross from Antoine Griezmann and work in the area from Kylian Mbappé.

A saving post

A blow on the head from the outset for the Moroccan players and for the public won over to his cause. Copiously whistled as soon as they entered the lawn of the al-Bayt stadium, the Blues did not disassemble. If the Atlas Lions tried to react immediately, Hugo Lloris had a firm hand on a powerful attempt from Azzedine Ounahi (10th). Vigilant on his line, the captain was reassuring in his shots. The tricolor midfielder, deprived of Adrien Rabiot, sick and replaced at short notice by Youssouf Fofana, on the other hand left too much space to the Moroccan attackers.

After an interesting collective action, punctuated by a crazy acceleration from Kylian Mbappé (35th), it was the Moroccans who offered themselves the best opportunity of the first period, through Jawad El-Yamiq. The central defender of the Atlas Lions slammed a chisel returned to the left of the French surface, on a corner from the right (45th). The ball hit the right amount of Lloris, causing some cold sweats on the French bench.

A defense that holds up

Jostled throughout the second period, the men of Didier Deschamps stuck together, like an exceptional Ibrahima Konaté in defense. This last-minute holder, replacing Dayot Upamecano, showed great serenity. From experience, the men of Didier Deschamps tirelessly repelled the offensives of the Atlas Lions, not without some scares (57th, 66th), and finally took advantage of the rare spaces left by the Moroccan defense to find the fault again .

After a sublime slalom from Kylian Mbappé in the heart of the defense, Eintracht Frankfurt striker Randal Kolo Muani concluded the action at close range (80th). For his first goal in Blue, the player just entered the lawn in place of a transparent Ousmane Dembélé, becomes the first Blue entered during the match to score since the start of the World Cup in Qatar.

Stunned, the valiant Moroccans will not recover. Accustomed to leaving possession to their opponents in previous matches, Walid Regragui’s men will have had the merit of holding off the world champions by imposing their rhythm. They stumbled on the experience and the serenity of the French executives, like an omnipresent Antoine Griezmann, in attack but especially in defense.

Messi and Argentina await the Blues

France are just one game away from winning another world championship title, four years after their success in Russia. See you on Sunday, December 18 at the Lusail stadium, against an impressive Argentinian team in their victory against Croatia.

Carried by an eternal Lionel Messi, the Albiceleste dreams of lifting the trophy after 36 years of scarcity and a title obtained during the World 86 in Mexico. France, it can become the first nation to chain two victories in the World Cup since Brazil in 1962. The two nations will fight above all to weave a third star on their jersey and touch eternity a little more.



World Cup 2022: France-Morocco, in the stands, an audience won over to the cause of Morocco

In the stands, there is no match. During the opposition between Morocco and the France team, this Wednesday, December 14, at 8 p.m., in the semi-finals of the World Cup, 45,000 supporters of the Atlas Lions will be present against a little less than 4,000 French supporters.

The course of the Atlas Lions, which thwarted all the forecasts at the start of the competition, provoked emulation among the region’s supporters who all stand behind Morocco. In addition to Moroccan fans should therefore be added a large number of Saudis.

The Blues will thus aim for a qualification in the final, having the feeling of playing outside. In the cauldron of the Al-Bayt stadium, Didier Deschamps’ men will experience their first match in an electric atmosphere since the start of the competition. No opponent of France had until then had such substantial popular support, except Tunisia, in a match without stake (defeat 1 goal to 0).

Riots and forces

Behind the beautiful images of agreement between two friendly nations, the battle of the stands has taken on a sulphurous dimension. “We must measure that here the queues for the ticket office generate scenes of riots”explains Hervé Mougin, president of the group of supporters Les Irrésistibles Français, present in Qatar since the start of the competition. “We were chased by Moroccan supporters when they found out we were French! The local police got us out! »he laughs.

The French supporter knows that the battle will be tough. “We are not many… Usually, in a stadium, there is a visitors’ area where the fans of the traveling team congregate. There, this is not really the case and it is a safe bet that the French will find it difficult to exchange places to meet among themselves. »

Despite a tense context, the head of the group of supporters wishes to remain optimistic. “Of course our role as the twelfth man will be reduced. We are counting more on the eleven others who will be on the ground, but we will sing! », he slips. With this dispersal of forces within the stadium, Hervé Mougin is betting above all on a goal from the France team. It will stop the momentum of the Moroccan supporters and we may have a chance to be heard! » The Blues know what remains to be done.



World Cup 2022: in Morocco, the fervor of an entire country behind the Atlas Lions

“We took out Portugal and Spain, we beat Belgium! Of course we have every chance! », says Lghazi, a waiter in a café in the center of Casablanca, to a customer seated. Here, as everywhere else in Morocco, conversations revolve almost exclusively around the feat of the Atlas Lions. In a few hours, Morocco will play a historic FIFA World Cup semi-final against France. “For sure, France is the favourite. But Morocco will win! », wants to believe Lghazi.

For the very first time in history, an African, Arab team reached the semi-finals of a World Cup, that of Qatar. The Moroccan selection brilliantly eliminated the strong Portuguese team in the quarter-finals on Saturday, December 10, 1 to 0.

“One of the secrets is that the members of the team scrupulously respect the coach’s tactics. He has a lot to do with it: he is young, he understands his players well and he has managed to create a family spirit in this selection. It’s been a lot of work to get here.” says Abdeslam, another client, about the Franco-Moroccan coach Walid Regragui, who has become a real star in the country.

“Dirou niya! », « Have faith! »

But that’s not the only ingredient. “One of the secrets of this team is the niya », assures Abdeslam. Very difficult to translate this word: niyait’s faith, the will to believe in it, luck, motivation… After Saturday’s victory, the expression is taken up in chorus by the Moroccans: “Dirou niya! », “Have faith! »

Saturday, after the final whistle, a real human tide poured into the streets of the kingdom. Morocco in all its diversity went out to party until very late at night. Flags in hand, the Moroccans communed with the selection, whose greatest achievement was to reach the round of 16 in 1986 in Mexico.

“We only hoped to pass the first round. And here we are in the semi-finals! », exclaims Ghita, a 32-year-old from Casablanca, who still can’t believe it.

In Qatar, tens of thousands of supporters

Football is almost a religion in Morocco. “In Casablanca, every game of local clubs is sold out,” reports Abdellah Tourabi, journalist. The fervor is such that the famous Casablanca derby between the clubs of Wydad and Raja is considered one of the most spectacular in the world.

The support for the Lions has even moved to Qatar for this World Cup. As if they were playing at home, tens of thousands of supporters cheered them on at every game. For the semi-final, Royal Air Maroc announced that it was chartering 30 planes especially for the match. Although many Moroccans complained on social networks that they could not find a ticket.

Morocco “will bring the cup back to Africa”

But if the Moroccan supporters were for a lot in the motivation of the team, it is all of Africa, the Arab world, even the Muslim world who lined up behind the Lions of the Atlas. After Saturday’s victory, images and testimonies of fervor poured in from Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, South Africa, Palestine, Senegal and beyond. “What immense joy and pride offered to Africa! », Tweeted just after the game Moussa Faki, the chairman of the African Union Commission.

“The team will go all the way and bring the cup back to Africa, that’s the goal of all Africans! », exclaims Mahmoud, a 32-year-old Guinean who lives in Casablanca. “When you see the popular enthusiasm in some countries, you get the impression that it’s their own team playing! Moroccans are proud to represent all these peoples! », assures Abdellah Tourabi.

“Today Africa is working, the Arab world is working”

“It’s a bit like David versus Goliath. There is great pride in having beaten the big footballing powers. he continues. Some see it as more than football, a revenge on history and the colonizing countries. “We must not neglect the symbolism. People are fed up with the arrogance of some northern countries. This reinforces popular jubilation,” judge Adil, a 30-year-old executive in a large Moroccan company.

This course of the Lions “is not a miracle, it is work. Today Africa is working, the Arab world is working,” insisted on recalling Walid Regragui after the victory against Portugal. In fact, Morocco has bet on football since the end of the 2000s, at a time when its teams were struggling to bring results.

“The State and the federation then decided to improve the training of coaches and players, to build fields to international standards, to strengthen their influence on football on the continent…”, explains Moncef Lyazghi, sports policy researcher. As a result, in this competition, players trained in Europe like Hakimi or Ziyech rub shoulders with those trained in Morocco, like the scorer against Portugal En-Nesyri or Ounahi.

“It gives the image of a developed country”

“The State has decided to bet on a football policy, because it is a powerful element of communication. This gives the image of a developed country, where security reigns, worthy of hosting major events,” continues Moncef Lyazghi. This discipline also has a spectacular mobilization capacity.

“With very rare events such as the death of Mohammed V or that of Hassan II, this is the only time when Moroccans take to the streets en masse with a flag. Football develops a sense of homeland, whether among Moroccans in Morocco or those residing abroad,” adds the researcher.

After difficult years for the kingdom, jubilation is all the more important. The country experienced exceptional demonstrations in the Rif in 2016-2017, strongly repressed, a strengthening of the repression against opponents, a historic drought, and of course the Covid-19 crisis, which caused 3.2 million More Moroccans in poverty, according to the High Commission for Planning. Added to all this is inflation in the context of the war in Ukraine.

“Nothing is impossible in football”

In recent months, the signals of a social crisis have multiplied, with an increasingly strong challenge to the head of government Aziz Akhannouch, sparing King Mohammed VI so far. “For now, there is a moment of collective communion. And the left-wing activists or the Islamists themselves say that we should not be party killers, and that we will have to come back to protest after the event”, argues Abdellah Tourabi.

All of Morocco now begins to dream of beating this France so close. Even if the team is penalized by injuries, like that of captain Romain Saïss, Anas, a 23-year-old Casablancan, wants to believe that “Nothing is impossible in football”.


Morocco, a little thumb with big ambitions

Awards. Surprise of this world, Morocco is however not outdone of trophies. The Atlas Lions have won two editions of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) in 2018 and 2020, in four appearances. They had already won the older version, the Africa Cup of Nations, in 1976.

Investments. Disappointed at not obtaining the award for the 2026 World Cup, the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) has invested considerably in its infrastructure. 58 million euros were paid in particular to make the National Football Center Mohammed-VI, equivalent to the Clairefontaine tricolor, more modern.

Favorite Blues. France, big favorite on Wednesday night, has never met Morocco in official competition. The two nations have played five times in friendlies, for three French wins and two draws.



France-Morocco: the president of the Union of French mosques calls for restraint

“A historic feat. » In a press release, published Monday, December 12, Mohammed Moussaoui, known as president of the French Council for Muslim Worship (CFCM), is full of praise for the performance of the Moroccan selection – the “Lions of the Atlas” – during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The first country on the African continent to qualify for the semi-finals, Morocco will meet the French team on Wednesday 14 December. The opportunity for the president of the Union of Mosques of France (UMF), himself of Moroccan origin, to call for restraint after excesses observed in France on the sidelines of the celebrations of the recent qualification of Morocco.

“Calm and serenity” in Morocco

Mohammed Moussaoui praises in his statement “humility” players and supporters in Morocco who expressed their joy and their pride in calm and serenity”. He also welcomed the behavior of supporters in Qatar, referring to their remarkable civic sense, that of not leaving the stadium without having cleaned the stands where they were installed”. Several videos of Moroccan fans cleaning the stands have been circulating since the start of the event.

If, at the same time, “also in France, the vast majority of supporters of the Moroccan team let their joy burst out in calm and respect”, Mohammed Moussaoui refers to the outbursts that took place after the matches against Belgium or Portugal. On social networks, scenes of degradation have been filmed, in particular on the Champs-Élysées. The police made more than 100 arrests.

A “harmful and unacceptable behavior” denounced

“The harmful and unacceptable behavior of a minority in certain cities of France is the very negation of this ideal which drives all Moroccans, players and supporters alike, that of humility, respect for others and their rights”, denounces the president of the UMF. Anxious to preserve the image of Moroccan supporters and the national team, he wishes “that all Franco-Moroccans, without exceptione, live up to this ideal which gives a bright image of Morocco and Moroccans ».

“This world football event must remind us above all that humanity is ONE, he also pleads in the press release, in its plural essence, in its diversity of origins and religions. »



France-Morocco: from Qatar to Rabat, a diplomatic match

He had announced it, and quickly confirmed this Sunday morning that he would keep his word. Emmanuel Macron will be traveling to Qatar on Wednesday with the Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, to encourage the Blues in the semi-finals against the Moroccans. And the president will also be in the stands if the national team reaches the final.

Any trip to Qatar is already a challenge for a Western head of state, as criticism of the policy of the small Gulf state – on human and minority rights, pollution… – has occupied people’s minds in recent months. . The Minister of Sports also responded to this by wearing a sweater with multicolored sleeves in the gallery on Saturday evening, like the LGBT + banner. But for the French president, this political challenge is further reinforced by the poster for this semi-final.

The confrontation between the Moroccan team, which carries the hopes of the African continent and the Arab world, and France, a former colonizing power, necessarily goes beyond the sporting question, knowing that the Moroccan diaspora is one of the largest in France. But the context makes the meeting even more delicate, while the two countries have been cold for several months.

Chance of the calendar, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, is expected in Rabat Thursday evening, twenty-four hours after the semi-final match, for a short diplomatic visit. She is due to meet her counterpart Nasser Bourita to work towards calming bilateral relations, at a time when, as a sign of the thaw, a new French ambassador to Morocco has just been appointed.

She must also prepare for a state visit by Emmanuel Macron in early 2023. But the football news could well cause an unforeseen meeting between the French president and King Mohammed VI, from Wednesday in the stand of the Qatari Al-Bayt stadium.

Towards a relaxation of visas

If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs assured that the visit of Catherine Colonna would make it possible to treat a “group of subjects”on the economy, security or education, it is the question of visas that poisons relations between the two countries, and should fuel the discussion.

The conflict arose in September 2021, when Paris decided to halve the entry permits granted to Moroccans, arguing the kingdom’s reluctance to readmit its nationals in an irregular situation in France. A policy also applied to nationals of several other Maghreb countries. The tension has lasted since then, the measure being considered particularly unfair by Rabat and Moroccans.

In an effort to warm up these relations, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, or the President a few weeks after her, could announce in Rabat a relaxation of the policy on visas. At the Élysée, the door has been opened in any case in recent weeks, ensuring that the tightening of the conditions for obtaining visas was not “not irreversible”.

“Moroccanity of the Sahara”

Visas are not the only point of contention between the two countries, however. Last year, the Pegasus affair, in which Morocco allegedly tapped a thousand telephones, including some from the Élysée, contributed to the deterioration of relations. On the side of Rabat, the position of France around Western Sahara, a historic conflict which opposes Morocco to the Sahrawi separatists of the Polisario Front, also fuels anger.

Since 2020 and the recognition by the United States of Moroccan sovereignty over the former Spanish colony, Rabat has been insistently pushing France to recognize in turn the “Moroccanity of the Sahara”, as Spain has done. But on the French side, we play the balance with Algeria which supports the Polisario, and we categorically refuse to decide. If the disagreement on the subject is likely to persist, a gesture from France on visas could moderate Moroccan anger. It remains to be seen what role the footballing duel – and the result of the meeting – will play in these diplomatic negotiations.



World Cup in Qatar: behind Morocco, Arab and African populations united

“Thank you Morocco. We are all, Africans, behind you. Africa is Moroccan. Morocco is Africa. » Former Senegalese international footballer Demba Ba lined up behind the Atlas Lions after their victory, “HISTORY” headlines the Moroccan site Le 360, against Spain in the round of 16 of the Football World Cup on 6 December. On the Web, the image of an African continent totally in the colors of the Moroccan flag is circulating.

The last Arab and African country still in the running, Morocco defied all predictions by reaching the quarter-finals, spreading a wind of jubilation and pride in the region. “Qatar had promised a new version for this first World Cup to be held in an Arab country. Here we are with the qualification of an Arab country in the top ten! », notes Hasni Abidi, director of the Center for Studies and Research on the Arab and Mediterranean World (Cermam) in Geneva. The Emir of Qatar had also not spared his support for the Moroccan team by offering thousands of places to Moroccan supporters present in Doha.

“It is an immense pride for the Arab populations who find the taste of victory”

“The competition succeeded in uniting Arab public opinion across its divisions and differences,” notes Hasni Abidi. The Moroccan team is “the honor of Arab football”, enthused the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Ahmed Aboul Gheit. It’s a team “who saves all of Africa”, added the Moroccan ambassador to the African Union, Mohamed Arrouchi.

“It is an immense pride for the Arab populations who find the taste of victory. And for many of them, who live in situations of conflict, the World Cup is the only opportunity to give joy,” adds Hasni Abidi. Scenes of jubilation thus broke out in Syria or Gaza. The Atlas Lions collectively posed with the Palestinian flag on the field after their victory, thus distancing themselves from the normalization agreements signed between the Moroccan and Israeli authorities. This Palestinian solidarity was also evident throughout the World Cup.

The prowess of Algerian television

Even in neighboring Algeria, politically very cold with Morocco, the Moroccan victory has brightened up the cafes. But not enough to overflow in jubilation in the streets. “In 2014, when Algeria was in the round of 16, the Moroccan people were behind the Algerians. Today, the roles are reversed, the Algerian support for Morocco is there but to a lesser extent, the spontaneity has decreased, the propaganda of the power ends up leaving traces “, deplores a football fan in Algiers. Exacerbating its hostility towards Morocco, Algerian national television managed the feat of mentioning the defeat of Spain without even pronouncing the name of the winner. The diaspora was freed from it, Moroccans and Algerians celebrated this victory together in the streets of European capitals.

“Other countries are also on the reserve, notes Hasni Abidi. Egypt provides very shy coverage of the World Cup,and speaks very little of Morocco. The same can be said of Saudi Arabia. There is a big gap between the official speeches and the opinion largely lined up behind Morocco. »