(MENAFN- The Peninsula) victor bolorunduro |
Doha: More than six weeks after the curtains fell on the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the ripples of the Atlas Lions of Morocco's unprecedented history-making run at the first tournament of its kind in the Middle East and the Arab world are yet to abate.
The coach Walid Regragui-led team's Cinderella run at the mondial in Qatar came to an end on Saturday, December 17, 2022, after finishing the tournament in fourth place following a 2-1 defeat to Croatia in their bronze-medal match.
The Atlas Lions, however, made African and Arab countries proud with their performances, both on and off the field, winning millions of hearts
The team spent a total of 40 days in Qatar, enjoying the great hospitality of the host country and creating buzz and excitement throughout their stay at the elegant Wyndham Doha West Bay, their base for the global fiesta of football.
Speaking exclusively with The Peninsula, Adam El Sebaey, the general manager of Wyndham Doha West Bay, said that hosting the team was an experience of a lifetime.
“It was an honour to host the Atlas Lions. We had great experiences with everyone of them, as they were very humble and friendly. There was no air of arrogance around them, and they bonded very well with everyone. There was nothing to show that we were hosting high-profile guests as they gave us no problems at all, and my entire team was very happy to serve them,” he said.
El Sebaey noted that the team's amazing run almost created a dilemma for the hotel, as no one expected them to reach the last four, judging by the past history of African and Arab teams at the World Cup.
“As you are aware, no African or Arab team has ever reached the World Cup's semi-final stage. So when Morocco confirmed their stay with us for the tournament, we were actually preparing for a stay that would last until the end of the group stages and probably the round of 16 at the maximum.
“Our concern is not unfounded, given that their group included so-called strong teams Croatia, the 2018 finalists, and former world No. 1 Belgium.'
'It was quite a funny experience because I had already told my sales team to prepare to unlock the rooms for bookings after the group stages because we were almost certain that they would be leaving by then. We had to put contingency plans in place as the team continued to advance. They caught everyone by surprise, and I think it was a pleasant but funny experience for us,” El Sebaey humorously noted.
While the hotel had nothing to worry about when it came to the players, coaches, and administrative staff, the story was unsurprisingly different when it came to the fans, who were arguably the largest of the 32 teams competing in the tournament.
“It was hectic and a bit of a headache dealing with the fans. They always thronged the vicinity of the hotel every day, with some hanging around till the wee hours of the morning in the hope of meeting or catching a glimpse of the team or their star players. I was often accosted on my way into the hotel by fans asking for match tickets, which of course I couldn't provide. I understand their feelings and sentiments, though, and I think their presence added more flavour to the overall experience,” he said.
El Sebaey noted that one of the major highlights of the whole experience was the team's departure, when the hotel arranged a special departure event not only for the team but also for the mothers of the players.