Morocco: a historic match… and very political

Morocco’s success at the 2022 World Cup has created a rare wave of enthusiasm shared by most Arab countries. The confrontation with France gives another measure of this enthusiasm.

The clash between Morocco and France in the FIFA World Cup semi-finals this Wednesday, December 14, takes on a much wider dimension than a sporting context. The complex history between the two peoples, the importance of the Moroccan community in France (French people of Moroccan origin or binationals in France) make this meeting a major topical event. The proof of this is that political figures are met with a flood of comments, what a great moment of sharing, what a moment of tension has already been written.

It should be noted that when Morocco meets France on the football field, there is a 90-minute competition between two nations that cannot fully reveal their common past, nor the traces left by colonialism, decolonization, immigration and unbalanced economic power relations of the 1960s. . Moreover, Morocco embodies the pride of the Arab world in this competition: not to realize this would be to not understand what is at stake. If we try to summarize a little, we can agree that this France-Morocco match raises 3 points or sensitive questions.

1/ Symbolic revenge from France?

This is the conjunction that the far right mobilized when France faced a nation colonized by Paris. Let’s remember that Morocco was a protectorate of France for more than half a century… The events that took place in certain communes after Morocco’s victory over Spain made those who were sure that France had lost the “civilization war” think. part of a fanciful history of the “great displacement” of the natives by the Muslim community.

France 2, on Monday, December 12, the vice president of the National Assembly, RN Sebastien Chenu, has already put a coin in the doubt machine: “The match should not sound like a political or historical revenge. However, we have this feeling. Seeing the controversy, a little. Probably , some are French, because they have certain interests, but they have a heart that beats for another country.(…) It brings up the question of assimilation”. . Same story with Jordan Bardella at RMC on the same day, which happened and from many football matches given that the excesses that will inevitably follow are part of “thirty years of failure of immigration policy and assimilation in particular”.

2/ Suspicion of the Moroccan people who do not like France

Basically, the case against Moroccan immigrants or Moroccan French is this: if they support Morocco and not France in this World Cup, it’s because they’re not integrated enough and they don’t love France enough. Unfortunately, the supporters of this low-level analysis do not see what comes of this enthusiasm for the Moroccan team: never before has the Moroccan team shone so brightly in collective sports at this level, and all sports fans were swept away one day. with the contagious joy and inspiring energy of little Thumbs.

In all of these, there are likely to be questions to be asked about identity tensions, expressions of concern about the French integration model, or a sense of belonging to the tricolor community. But to see only this would be to observe what is happening through the small end of a telescope: the speech of the Moroccans allows those who feel close to this country to communicate around success, victory. Moroccan immigrants benefit from the rare light that collective representation often lacks.

3/ The issue of Palestine carried by Morocco

The Atlas Lions – as the Moroccan players are nicknamed – managed to create a new sense of pride, brotherly fervor in the Arab world at this World Cup. “It’s the first time in a long time that the Arab peoples are putting their differences aside. I’m not normally a big fan of football myself, but the last few days the passion has been contagious.” Faisal Abbas, editor-in-chief of Saudi Arabia’s English-language “Arab News” newspaper, Le Monde.

It didn’t go unnoticed that several Moroccan players, starting with PSG defender Ashraf Hakimi, waved Palestinian flags after the win over Canada and then Spain. In the stands, signs of support for Palestine are increasingly visible in red and green colors – the colors of the Moroccan team. What unfolds there in Qatar is, of course, watched with great interest in the Palestinian territories. The sporting activities of the Moroccans created scenes of joy in the major cities of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Will this support for the Palestinian issue have political consequences? This hardly says anything about the attitude of the Arab peoples to this topic: the issue of the territories occupied by Israel is rarely discussed in international exchanges between the great powers, but it is mobilized and remains extremely sensitive.

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