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Morocco: FIFA World Cup performance a ‘new cultural phenomenon’

December 13, 2022 at 2:02 pm

Morocco’s Secretary General of the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) and former prime minister, Abdelilah Benkirane on March 18, 2017 [FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images]

The performance of the Moroccan football team at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar signifies a “new cultural phenomenon,” former Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane has told Arabi 21 in an exclusive interview. The Secretary-General of the Justice and Development Party praised the team’s performance and said that what Moroccans have achieved in football is evidence that victory can come from an approach different to the Western way.

Professor Benkirane explained that he doesn’t usually watch football matches on television because of the great tension while they are played, but his discovery of the Moroccan players’ and manager’s commitment to Islamic and Arab values changed this. He realised that football is much more than just a sport.

“The Morocco team’s participation drew my attention because of the harmony, not only among the players on the pitch, but also between the coaching and training staff. They were honourable on the pitch even while competing with the strongest football teams in the world, despite known historical differences.” This, he added, is not only about a footballing approach that any observer would notice, but also a comprehensive concept of dealing with matches based mainly on freedom. “Moroccan coach Walid Regragui and the squad all came together on one thing, which is victory for the sake of the homeland. A pillar of this victory was to leave room for specialists and those with an interest in the matter to manage it freely and without interference.”

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Benkirane stressed that the “freedom” enjoyed by the team’s management allowed it to reach what international observers describe as a “miracle” semi-final against World Cup holders France. “Personally, though, I believe that what the Moroccans have achieved in the World Cup in Qatar is part of a civilisational renaissance that Morocco has experienced in several fields.”

When he talks about freedom, the former prime minister pointed out, it is that freedom is the basis of all creativity. “But, of course, freedom must be accompanied by accountability.”

In conclusion, Professor Benkirane said that the tournament held in an Arab Muslim country for the first time has presented a clear picture of Islamic and Arab values. “For that reason alone, the world will never be the same as it was before the World Cup kicked off last month.”