Morocco Wins, Then Waits, and Then Starts Celebrating

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It had been greater than an hour since Anissa Lahmari had scored the purpose that put Morocco in entrance, the one which was poised to ship one other historic win for her staff at its first Ladies’s World Cup.

Nevertheless it was not over but. And so Morocco’s gamers needed to wait.

They huddled collectively round a workers member’s cellphone as Germany bombed balls upfield, because it tried to string passes by way of a stingy South Korea protection and because it lofted hopeful ones over it. A Germany purpose, any purpose, would save its World Cup and sprint Morocco’s inconceivable dream of advancing to the knockout rounds. The minutes ticked on, and on, after which abruptly, it was over.

Morocco had overwhelmed Colombia, 1-0. Germany had not overwhelmed South Korea, 1-1. And after all of the minutes, and all of the ready, that was all it took: Morocco, a staff in its first World Cup, a staff that had by no means gained a recreation within the event every week in the past however now has gained two in a row, was by way of. And it didn’t appear to know what to do.

When the referee’s whistle blew within the Germany recreation, Morocco’s gamers broke their huddle and ran. They ran in quest of hugs. They ran to search out teammates. A number of ran simply to run.

Morocco had already gained, in fact. The primary North African staff to qualify for the Ladies’s World Cup, and the primary to subject a participant in a hijab, its mere presence within the event had been an achievement, and an inspiration. But Morocco was fascinated about greater than mere participation.

As certainly one of eight first-time entrants on this yr’s expanded event, it had arrived with a squad that was little recognized even to most Moroccans earlier than it certified on house soil final July. It had gained followers and respect in its qualification journey, however even its coach knew the subsequent step can be an enormous one.

“They confirmed us that they’ll fill stadiums and make Moroccans completely satisfied,” the staff’s French coach, Reynald Pedros, had mentioned earlier than the event. “They did it on the African stage. Now we hope to do the identical on the worldwide one.”

Now that that they had, Pedros didn’t appear to know what to do. He burst into tears on the sphere as his staff and his workers celebrated their achievement. Gamers dropped to their knees in thanks. Others embraced. Within the heart of all of it, seemingly misplaced and unsure the place to go, or who to hug subsequent, was Pedros.

Again house, pleasure took over Morocco, the place solely seven months in the past followers had stuffed the streets to cheer the boys’s staff because it made a run to the World Cup semifinals. Now, the nation might quickly be cheering for its ladies’s squad.

In Casablanca on Thursday morning, folks (principally males) had stuffed cafes quietly to look at the sport. There was little hope for Morocco coming into the day, since Colombia led the group and Germany was broadly anticipated to affix it within the knockouts. However when South Korea scored early, and Morocco took the lead in opposition to Colombia simply earlier than halftime when Lahmari banged within the rebound of a missed penalty kick for the opening purpose, followers began to hope.

In a single cafe, the boys inside checked their telephones repeatedly, updating the rating within the Germany recreation. A number of mentioned quiet prayers.

As a shocking victory, and an much more stunning risk — development out of the group stage within the staff’s first World Cup — crept nearer, the stress mounted. Throughout the Mediterranean in France, Kenza Haloui, 34, had left work in Good to look at the match alone whereas texting together with her cousins in Morocco. She had grown up in Fez and performed soccer her complete life earlier than transferring to Europe. When Morocco lastly gained, she mentioned, “I felt so many feelings.”

On the remaining whistle, although, the celebrations have been muted: briefs shouts of pleasure, some honking of automotive horns. After which folks transfer on with their day.

Soumia Idba, 39, watched the sport on the workplace in Casablanca, however couldn’t assist however discover how tough it had been to view it. “It was very exhausting to discover a strategy to watch a recreation,” Idba mentioned. “It wasn’t like in Qatar. Most Moroccans watch on-line.”

If the celebrations have been subdued, although, the staff’s subsequent recreation might stoke extra feelings: By advancing, Morocco earned a date with France within the spherical of 16 on Tuesday. It’s the identical matchup that, in December on the males’s World Cup, introduced followers into the streets of Casablanca and Marrakesh and dozens of cities throughout North Africa and Europe. France gained that day, ending the dream of Morocco’s males’s staff.

The nation now has a second likelihood. Its ladies’s staff has one thing nobody anticipated: its first.

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