Morocco becomes first African team in World Cup semi-finals as support for Palestine soars

Morocco player Aboukhalal celebrates
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Last week, the Moroccan football team made history by becoming the first African nation to qualify for the World Cup semi-finals. They beat Portugal 1-0, having already dispatched of Spain. It’s not lost on many that in beating Spain and Portugal, Morocco have defeated two of their former colonisers. As The New Arab reported:

Morocco have already defeated two of their former European rulers, Spain and Portugal, in this World Cup. Now they gear up for a semi-final showdown with their third ex-occupier – France.


People took to the streets around the world to celebrate Morocco’s progress. There were celebrations in New York City:

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And also in London:

In Yemen:

And in many other places, including Beirut, Berlin, Paris, and, of course, in Morocco:

Solidarity with Palestine

A prominent feature of Morocco’s time in the World Cup has been their players’ and fans’ unwavering support for Palestine. After the victory over Spain, the team posed with the Palestinian flag:

And after beating Portugal, the team did the same thing again:

Reporter Younis Tirawi compiled a thread of Palestinians celebrating, including in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Gaza, Nablus, and more:

Expressions of solidarity from the Moroccan team and fans have been mirrored by a reciprocal outpouring of love and solidarity in Palestine. Often, if you believe the mainstream media, it appears as though both institutional and individual support for Palestinians is scarce. However, the rare occasion of an Arab country hosting a major world event has provided a platform that allows people to show their love, support, and solidarity for Palestine.


Amongst the celebrations, however, some social media users have been making the important point that coloniality (the ongoing condition of colonialism) is rarely a singular path. Whilst Morocco is making short work of European colonisers, writer Shailja Patel noted the country’s control over Western Sahara:

Amnesty International reported that Moroccan authorities restricted freedoms of people living in Western Sahara:

The authorities continued to use the 2020 health emergency decree-law to arbitrarily restrict freedom of expression and assembly, including of journalists, activists and workers. The authorities continued to violate the rights of pro-independence Sahrawi activists through arbitrary house arrests, ill-treatment and harassment.

The Moroccan team’s success has inspired solidarity amongst many Arab states and others in the diaspora. However, there still needs to be space to consider how colonialism is not only the refuge of Europeans. Others brought up Morocco’s control over Western Sahara too:

Some people also shared their experiences of anti-Blackness in Morocco:

This discomfort and the calls to acknowledge Morocco’s colonial control of people in Western Sahara are perfectly placed. Whilst it’s heartening to see solidarity amongst Muslim nations, Palestinians, South Asians, Africans, and Arabs, these situations can’t be viewed in isolation. Solidarity can be a stifling call for those who are left out; as per the quote from June Jordan to which Patel referred, which reads in full:

Freedom is indivisible or it is nothing at all besides sloganeering and temporary, short-sighted, and short-lived advancement for a few. Freedom is indivisible, and either we are working for freedom or you are working for the sake of your self-interests and I am working for mine.

Anti-Blackness is a universal reality of the modern world and it must be brought forward in every conversation. There are intersections between Arab solidarity, brown communities coming together, the anti-Blackness at the heart of Morocco’s control over Western Sahara, and Morocco’s own relationship with colourism. Just as it feels like a loving act of community to support Morocco, it is also a loving act of community to see who is left out in moments of joy and celebration. There is, and indeed there must be, room for both.

Featured image via YouTube screenshot/BBC Sport

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