(MENAFN- Khaleej Times)
Published: Wed 7 Dec 2022, 7:09 PM
Last updated: Wed 7 Dec 2022, 8:03 PM
Some Dubai residents burst into tears while others jumped with joy as Morocco scripted history by becoming the first Arab country ever to make it to the Fifa World Cup quarter-finals. A goalless match followed by a dramatic penalty shootout ensured that coach Walid Regragui's team progressed through the knockout stages by shocking Spain.
Samia Chantoufi, who watched the match with her friends at a coffee shop on the Boulevard, admitted that she started crying moments before the penalty shootout started.“I was so stressed and nervous that I was in tears,” she said.
“But when that final goal was hit, I cannot even explain my feelings. I was laughing and crying all at once. My parents are in Morocco. I made a video call and we all celebrated together. It was so special. It is something I will never forget in my life.”
When she walked out of the shop, it felt like the entire city was celebrating with her.“We are living in an Arab, Muslim country, so it felt like everyone was rooting for us,” she said.
“Cars were honking, people were waving the Moroccan flag. I am so glad I got to witness this.”
The Atlas Lions will face Portugal in their quarterfinal battle on December 9.
Amal El Khassoumi jumped with joy when Achraf Hakimi, a product of the Real Madrid youth system, struck the decisive penalty to send the Spaniards crashing out of the tournament.“I could not contain my excitement,” she said.
“I was not expecting Morocco to win. Spain is a very strong side. But somewhere in my heart I was hoping and praying for a victory, like we always do when our side is playing.”
Amal said she let her 9-year-old son Adam stay way past his bedtime to watch the match.“Usually we have a very strict bedtime policy because my son has to wake up at 5 in the morning,” she said.
“But the match was momentous and bedtime flew out of the window. I could see Adam's eyes straying to the clock every couple of minutes. He was so excited to be able to stay up and see the match.”
Moments after the final whistle His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, congratulated the team calling them 'the lions'. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai also congratulated the team for the 'deserved victory and outstanding heroic performance'.
Briton Grant Randall watched the match with his Moroccan wife Sophia Faris in a Dubai fan zone.“I knew they would win,” he said.
“I mean just from the body language and the way they were playing, it was pretty obvious they would win. I think the best thing the team did was getting a Moroccan coach. In the Arab countries, it is common for teams to get European coaches who don't really understand the players and the culture. I think Walid Regragui is doing a great job. Also, the country has invested heavily in the football infrastructure of the country. All these factors paid off really well. The upcoming matches are going to be very hard. The team will next face Portugal, who is going to be very difficult to defeat. However, even coming this far is quite an achievement for this team.”
After the match, the couple drove through the streets of Dubai and celebrated in their own way.
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