Arab Reactions to the World Cup in Qatar
By: Arab America Contributing Writer / Carrie Stewart
As you probably know, the World Cup is going on in Qatar right now. There has been a variety of shocking wins such as Morocco over Belgium and Japan over Germany. There is a lot of excitement among Arabs, with the arena being in Qatar and with the success of Arab teams.
This video shows a drive through Qatar – see the energy and excitement! Source: Tik Tok
One advantage of having the tournament in Qatar is in accordance with the fact that the country is smaller than the state of Connecticut. The stadiums are not too far away so people can watch multiple games in one day.
Morocco beat Belgium by 2 on Sunday the 27th. Goals were scored by Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal (off a pass from Sabiri). This game was a major upset as Morocco was ranked 25th and Belgium was ranked 7th after the first group stage game (according to nbc).
It was clear that the Moroccon team was up for the challenge. “These players, with their performance today, showed how much they care and how much it means to play for our country,” said Hanan Rahho, who flew in from Neuss in Germany for the showpiece. “Hakimi was everywhere. With players like we can go far. Anything is possible. It is very promising. I will not be surprised if we win the World Cup.”
Obviously, this win was very exciting for the Arab world. Fan Othmane Benjelloun said, “No one gave us a chance. Everyone said Belgium will humiliate us. But we beat them, this is a dream for us. We were brave and did not sit back. We believed in our team and our players felt our strong support. What you see here is history,” he added, tears finally streaming down his cheeks.”
In Morocco, people ran to the streets of Rabat and danced, sang, and waved Moroccan flags, and drivers honked driving through the streets.
There was unsurprisingly very different energy in Belgium. In fact, violence erupted. After the game “dozens of rioters overturned and torched a car, set electric scooters on fire, and pelted cars with bricks.” Police had to be mobilized.“
Qatar is the smallest nation to ever host a World Cup. Football fields are supposed to inspire “international unity and a spirit of sportsmanship” and the “Qatar edition of the World Cup could help decolonize biased thinking about Arab and Muslim societies by using their diverse cultures to enrich the global experience of football.”
According to Aljazeera, “Qatar’s alcohol-free stadiums during the World Cup could set an example. They will allow a broader section of people to come to matches without worrying about the alcohol-fueled violence, racism and foul language that’s common in European football arenas.” Qataris are accustomed to living with foreigners and the World Cup is yet another chance to display their affinity with multiculturalism to counter the Western stereotype of the “fanatic Muslim” – as seen recently in Islamophobic and racist French cartoons depicting Qatar’s national team. By presenting an alternative narrative to the way both the Muslim world and football have been viewed in the West, this World Cup could help decolonize the language of the sport. “European football” is not white. “African” or “Arab” football are not signs of color or of ethnicity. Yet these labels are used as codes for dominant ethnicities and races far too often in the way the sport is covered.”
This is the first time that the World Cup has been hosted in the Middle East. Arab unity can be hard to come by sometimes, but one unity example from this World Cup was when Saudi Arabia beat Argentina. All Arab countries celebrated this win because one Arab team won.
Also, “Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, leaders that have boycotted Qatar in the past attended the opening match in Qatar.”
According to the Times of Isreal, “Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, called Qatar’s hosting of the tournament “a milestone for all Arabs” and also attended the opening.”
Also, the Morocco coach said, “we are proud to be here for the first World Cup in an Arabic country.”
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said, “We have differences in opinion, we have differences in views but that should not take away from the fact that Qatar has really put together a World Cup that is unique in every sense of the word.”
If you are interested, check out some World Cup games and support our favorite team!
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