On a chilly Wednesday evening, East African time, the referee, in the middle of the jubilant Education City stadium in Doha, Qatar, blew the whistle as 120 minutes of play came to an end at a stalemate. The fate of Morocco and Spain was now on the penalty shoot-out.
The crowd was overwhelmed with exhilarating joy, as both sets of fans were thrilled by the prospects of their respective teams and nations progressing to the quarter-finals.
On the pitch, the same could not, however, be said amongst the players, as they dragged their feet in exhaustion and moved their bodies in fatigue. Signs of chills and goosebumps were all visible on their faces.
Whereas the technical plays, the collective team efforts and individual skills had not produced the win for either Morocco or Spain, it was thus now left to four major traits to decide the winner of this particular battle between the two neighbouring countries.
It was now all about: preparation, composure, precision and definitely luck!
Spain may have had the first trait, as their coach mentioned, but Morocco had an upper hand in the remaining three traits, as the North African country, through the heroics of their amazing goalkeeper Yassine Bounou “Bono”, cruised in Penguin style into the quarter-finals with a panenka kick by the ever composed an extraordinary world-class defender Achraf Hakimi.
Morocco’s win erupted the North African country and the African continent at large in ecstasy. The euphoria of such a victory transcended all throughout the Arab world and amongst the Muslim community worldwide.
The win was altogether embraced by the entire football community, particularly amongst those who fancy the David-Goliath replica in football.
As much as the win in itself was perfect, the greatness of such victory was further marked by Moroccan players and staff posing and celebrating with the Palestinian flag.
The solidarity move of Morocco compliments and follows the likes of Tunisians and the numerous other fans that have been waving the flag of Palestine, both inside and outside the stadiums, throughout the tournament.
Palestine at the World Cup
Someone might find it relevant to ask, but… why the “fuss” about Palestine now?
As the World Cup centre stage was unveiled on November 27, 2022, the Marhaba mood was not at all universal. Just on the other side of the Middle East, Palestinians were tending to their inherent Nakba wounds and others were grieving the daily onslaught and killings undertaken by the Israeli regime.
Just two days before the kickstart of the World Cup at the Al Bayt stadium in the northeastern coastal city of Qatar, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a report naming 2022 as the worst and most terrible year for Palestinians, of which they have faced most criminal atrocities, committed by the brutal and apartheid Israeli regime.
The OCHA report reads: “[The year] 2022 is the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the United Nations started systematically counting fatalities in 2005, with 127 Palestinians killed so far this year.”
Even though the world, during this World Cup, has been in support and has shown sheer solidarity with Palestine and has altogether called for and chanted the Free Palestine slogan, the Israeli colonial settler regime has turned a blind eye and deaf ear to all pleas for justice for the Palestinian people.
The Israeli regime’s thirst for more blood of the Palestinian people has been more vivid and evident, now more than ever. On December 3, 2022, as the World Cup was ongoing, Israeli warplanes further attacked multiple targets in Gaza.
It is on this continued assault of the Palestinian people that the world has united and used the platform of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to condemn Israel’s colonial occupation in the Middle East country of Palestine.
Such support has been evident in different types, forms and nature. Predominantly, fans have been wearing and waving the Palestinian flag in and outside the stadium.
some fans have even invaded the pitch with the Palestinian flag and the fans in the stadium have gone ahead cheering them, chanting Falastin! Falastin! (Arabic for Palestine).
As much as the support has been resoundingly championed by the fans of the Arab community, this has not been the course of the Arab world alone.
Fans from different parts of the world – be it England or Brazil – have expressed their support for the Palestinians; influential leaders, like the former President of Croatia, have also supported the Palestinian course.
Amongst all others, Morocco’s national team show of support by posing with the Palestinian flag, so far, arguably tops the acts of solidarity showcased in Qatar, over the span of this World Cup.
The support and solidarity of the Moroccan team can be envisioned as an act of bravery and defiance against its own national government, as such support comes at a time when the Kingdom of Morocco enjoys diplomatic ties with Israel, through the US imperialistic funded Abrahams Accords.
The Western Sahara question
As Morocco and the world were celebrating the victory in Qatar, elsewhere, the people of Western Sahara were surely feeling the pinch.
With regards to Spain vs Morocco football match, the Saharawi people were placed at the crossroads of trauma: they had either to choose to support their former colonizers (Spain) or their current colonizers/ occupiers (Morocco).
What a terrible position of choice to be placed in!
Probably one might find it fit for the Saharawi to offer their support for Morocco in the name and spirit of Pan-Africanism and the Pan Arabism as well advocated for by Gamal Abdel Nasser and Ahmed Ben Bella.
However, that would not be a simple matter, particularly upon taking into consideration that, on the very similar day of the match, it was officially confirmed that the Kingdom of Morocco had signed a controversial agreement with an Israeli Company – NewMed Energy – to explore gas in occupied Western Sahara.
The decision of the Moroccan government to engage the Israeli company to undertake gas exploration in the Boujdour Atlantique offshore block, which does not form part of Morocco, but of the occupied territory, undermines the very basic principles of international law which requires the consent of the Saharawi people.
Morocco’s disregard of the self-determination call of the people of Western Sahara, together with the country’s ongoing engagement with different actors – states and non-states – to plunder and exploit the resources of Western Sahara, should definitely be condemned and challenged by all people of the world.
The unjust, criminal, cruel and hostile undertakings of the government of the Kingdom of Morocco in Western Sahara highly resemble, in nature, style and form, the undertakings of the apartheid Israeli regime in Palestine.
The recent friendly and diplomatic ties between the two colonial powers, Israel and Morocco, celebrated since 2020 under the facilitation of the imperialistic United States of America, have offered a fatal blow to both the people of Western Sahara and Palestine and further placed them in serious jeopardy.
Even though there may be indeed significant differences between the struggle of the Palestinian people and that of the Saharawi both struggles are for justice, peace and dignified living.
Since the Moroccan national team and the entire world have been waving the flag in support of the Palestinian cause, we surely need to applaud such a move.
But let us, in the same treat and spirit of justice, peace and dignified living, also offer and extend our love, support and solidarity to the North-West Coast of Africa, to our fellow brothers and sisters in Western Sahara.
Editor’s note: This article was submitted before the Morocco-Portugal match.
Jasper “Kido” Sabuni is a social justice activist and author of a poetry book titled Love Chronicles. His e-mail address is email@example.com. He is also on Instagram as Kido_Afrika and on Twitter as JasperKido. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Chanzo Initiative. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at firstname.lastname@example.org for further inquiries.