Football, family and Morocco’s historic World Cup journey

The Athletic is live coverage of the Morocco-France semi-final match. 2022 World Cup.

The curtains have been closed in front of the Wyndham Hotel in Doha’s West Bay.

All entrances are manned by guards and metal barriers block vehicle entry. Across the street, television cameras zoom into the lobby, looking for the footballer who has united the country with the African continent.

The Gate Mall is just around the corner and a cluster of coffee shops, restaurants and patisseries nearby. Moroccan supporters spend hours drinking tea and devouring a variety of sweets in an attempt to catch a glimpse of their hero.

The team, led by Walid Legraghi, was based in the West Bay for the entire World Cup. The Wyndham Hotel is open to the public, but access to certain areas is restricted and must be secretly entered through the back door.

You can book lunch at the fancy restaurant on the second floor, but don’t worry about running into goalkeeper Yasin Boonoo or star striker Youssef En Nesiri loading plates. building.

There have been examples in previous tournaments of this isolation having a negative impact on team performance, but there is one crucial difference here. The Moroccan players and coaching staff have been with family and friends all along.

Boonoo with his son on the pitch after the game (Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

We have created an environment in which they can thrive. Regragui and his Fouzi Lekjaa, president of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FMRF), have decided to allow players to bring relatives to Qatar and cover all costs.

One of the tournament’s most enduring images is Sofiane Boufal dancing with her mother on the pitch after Morocco beat Portugal 1-0 in the quarterfinals.

Achraf Hakimi found his mother in the crowd after beating Belgium. These little moments sum up why keeping everyone in the same hotel was a smart move.

This togetherness is crucial as they try to make more history by beating reigning champions France and becoming the first African team to reach the World Cup final.

“My parents and wife are here,” said midfielder Ilias Chea, who will play for Queens Park Rangers in the championship, before the semi-finals.

“All the other players have their parents and families here. If you look at it, it’s wonderful, you see people with tears in their eyes.”

During his playing career, Legraghi moved between various French clubs, including Toulouse, Ajaccio and Grenoble, before spending two years at Racing Santander in Spain.

But his mother, Fatima, had never seen him play or coach for a team other than the Paris he was born and raised in until the World Cup. The 47-year-old celebrated beating Portugal by rushing to her in her stands.

“The important thing for us to focus on football again is that we represent Morocco, so we have an image of the country that we want to spread around the world,” Legraghi said. “The World Cup is the best window, an opportunity for our players to show how close they are to their families, it is our culture.

“It’s important for our players to show how close they are to their wives, but a lot of people don’t get it. Yes, we represent the African world and that’s important to some extent, but It represents the Moroccan way of life.”

Royal Air Maroc has added flights from Casablanca to allow as many supporters as possible to reach Qatar for the semi-final against France.

Mouna Benqlilou co-owns a feminist dance company called Ichtar in Casablanca. athletic Deep insight into the relationship between players and their families.

“Everyone is talking about this country today. It’s great to see people talking positively,” says Benqlilou. “That’s what moved me a lot. It’s about the value that Morocco has. People realize these men are footballers hugging their mothers.

“We were born in a country that taught us how important family is and how we should rely on each other. I left Morocco when I was 18. I met my husband, had a great job there and had it all, but I never imagined I would spend the rest of my life far away from my family. I couldn’t, I told my husband he was totally French, it was Moroccan or nothing, he came here with me and we started our lives all over again My father is a little ill and my mother is alone, so it was unthinkable that I would not come back.

“Everyone here is like this. There are no retirement homes here. People take care of their parents, so they don’t exist in the local culture. I know my children will take care of me, and there is so much love.Moroccan mothers entrust everything to their children.”


Legargi with his family after winning against Portugal (Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Khalid Naama is from Morocco but has been living in Doha for the past 6 months. He started queuing outside the Janouve Stadium from 2am on Tuesday for a chance to grab a ticket to the semifinals. They were scheduled to be released at 10am, but there was a delay, causing discontent among the thousands of assembled supporters. I will.”

‘The semi-finals aren’t something you attend every four years,’ says Naama athletic“The only achievement we have ever had with the national team was when we reached the last 16 in 1986 (and lost 0-1 to West Germany). But now that we’re here, we’re witnessing something more historic, and we’ll pass it on to our children.

Naama also recognizes and touches on the special connection between athletes and their families. “Most players have grown up in Europe and other countries, but they never forget where they came from,” he says.

“They always come back to Morocco, but they still have their Moroccan roots. Your family is all you have and when you start your career there’s no one there.” It’s just your family.When you’re successful, you have to celebrate with your family first.”

One of the main reasons for the strong bond within the camp is that Leguragi has become the Moroccan in charge of the national team since Ezaki Badu in 2016.

“He (Leglagi) is a normal Moroccan who came three months ago (for the World Cup). But the bar has been raised. This is just the beginning,” said the Moroccan TV commentator. says Toufik Senhaji.

“The majority of the population was happy and wanted Legraghi. They knew him because he was Widad’s former coach. Widad won the African Champions League (in May) So they knew his management style, some were hesitant, but in the end they didn’t say anything bad.

“When he was coaching Fat (FUS Rabat), he made life very difficult for the Casablanca team. Because of his hair, he was given the nickname Avocado Head by Rajahwan.

“Since the first match against Croatia, Legragi said he needed to change his mentality, he needed to change the way he thinks in Africa, to believe he could win the competition. He said he was proud to have five African teams in the World Cup and all five were African coaches, which is very important.

Regragui succeeded in changing the mindset. If Morocco goes one step further, I can guarantee their family will be at the heart of it.

(Photo above: Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

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