Moroccans in Qatar seek World Cup tickets, excitement grows at home

RABAT/DOHA, Dec 14 (Reuters) – Moroccan fans in Qatar for their team’s World Cup semi-final against France on Wednesday struggled to find tickets, while enthusiasm grew at home even as some were left stranded when the matches were cancelled. additional flights to Doha.

Morocco’s football success, the best World Cup run by a team from Africa or the Arab world, has been cheered from Baghdad to Bamako during the first World Cup hosted by an Arab state, with victories against top European teams such as Spain and Portugal. .

Thousands of Moroccans have flown into Doha, many from Morocco and others from the diaspora in the Gulf and beyond, helping fill stadiums in the national colors of red and green.

Arab and African supporters have joined their ranks as Morocco prepares to play France, a two-time World Cup winner, a former Moroccan colonizer and home to many Moroccans.

In other matches in Morocco, fans without tickets crowded outside the stadium, sometimes blocking the entrance of others and sparking fights with police and other fans.

Moroccans who arrived overnight on extra flights said they hoped to get tickets upon arrival, but with hours to go they still didn’t know if they would get them.

“95 percent of the people on the plane did not have a ticket,” said Mohammed, a Moroccan fan outside the Al Janoub stadium in Qatar, where he was waiting for the game with his wife and three children.

Mohammed Amzil, 30, and Mehdi Gandouze, 25, both Moroccans living in Doha, queued all night outside the stadium, saying the free tickets they saw handed out were given to women.

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“We spent the night here and the end of the day and got nothing,” Amzil said, adding that he had seen sporadic fights between some of those waiting.

Some were left frustrated in Morocco, after Royal Air Maroc said overnight that seven flights had been cancelled, half of the additional flights expected to fly.

“Following the latest restrictions imposed by the Qatari authorities, Royal Air Maroc regrets to inform customers of the cancellation of their flights operated by Qatar Airways,” the airline said in an emailed statement.

The Qatari government’s international media office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Youssef Chippo, a former player for the Moroccan national team and a commentator for the BeIn sports channel in Qatar, said the cancellations were related to the arrival of many fans without tickets for the matches.

JUBILANT STATE OF MOOD

In Morocco, the emotion was growing before kick-off. Flags were flown from houses and buildings in an outpouring of national pride. Rabat schoolchildren sang soccer hymns.

In France, Tarek Idrissi, 31, a national of Morocco and France, was preparing to watch the game at his father’s house outside Paris.

“Football is born from the heart and guts and I am 200% behind Morocco,” he said, vowing to join other Moroccan fans celebrating on the Champs-Elysees in Paris if Morocco wins.

French President Emmanuel Macron is due to attend the game, dismissing suggestions he should boycott it after Qatar faced intense criticism from human rights groups over its treatment of migrant workers behind preparation work in the small state. of the Gulf.

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So far, no Arab country has reached the quarterfinals and no African country has reached the semifinals.

“I feel so excited that Morocco is still in the race to win the World Cup. It will be a privilege for Africa,” said Aureline Meli, 24, an assistant director in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon.

After beating Portugal on Saturday, congratulations poured in from African and Arab presidents, prime ministers and sports legends.

In Rabat, billboards with images of individual players or the entire team were plastered, now hot property for advertisers from everything from banks to telecommunications companies. In the old city, street vendors carried loads of souvenirs for sale.

Cafes in Rabat removed tables to accommodate more seats to watch the game. A cafe was selling places inside to customers.

A bus driver who was supposed to drive 500 km (300 miles) from Rabat to the city of Nador on Wednesday said he would now leave on Thursday.

“I’m delaying my departure until tomorrow so I can enjoy the game,” he said, asking that his name not be published so his employer wouldn’t get angry with him.

Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi and Jihed Abidellaoui in Rabat, Andrew Mills in Doha, Layli Foroudi in Paris, and Amindeh Blaise Atabong in Yaoundé; Written by Angus McDowall; Edited by Edmund Blair

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