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World Cup 2022: Algerians celebrate 'brotherly' Morocco's victory over Spain

Despite diplomatic tensions, Algerians celebrate the Atlas Lions' historic win against former world champions
Morocco's supporters pose for pictures at the Education City Stadium in the Qatari capital Doha on 6 December 2022 (AFP)
By Ali Boukhlef in Algiers

The joy was visible on Mohamed Reda's face.

Looking around, it felt like everyone in the Ain-Naadja market, a suburb of the Algerian capital, was in good spirits.

Hours earlier, Morocco defeated former world champions Spain on penalties and secured a place in the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time ever.

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"The Moroccans have honoured us," Reda told Middle East Eye.

Algerian-Moroccan relations have been tense in recent years, with the neighbours clashing on a number of issues, including border security, accusations of espionage and the disputed Western Sahara region.

Nevertheless, videos on social media showed Algerians celebrating Morocco's win over Spain just as feverishly as the rest of the Arab world, showing that while the states may be locked in diplomatic dispute, their people are only focused on one thing: seeing Arab countries shine at the World Cup.

Kamel, who sells detergents at the same market, was full of praise for what he described as the "heroic" Atlas Lions: "Our brothers... devoured Spain."

'We don't play politics'

Morocco's players have earned praise for their dogged performances and decision to carry Palestinian and Moroccan flags when they circle the field after a victory.

Despite Palestine not qualifying for the tournament, its national flag has been a ubiquitous symbol throughout.

In late 2020, Morocco was one of four Arab countries to normalise relations with Israel under what has become known as the Abraham Accords.

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The deals broke the long-standing consensus in the Arab world that normalisation with Israel should only come with major concessions for Palestinians.

US President Donald Trump in turn fulfilled a decades-old Moroccan ambition by backing its contested sovereignty in Western Sahara.

Asked about the contrast between support for the Moroccan team and the strained diplomatic ties between Rabat and Algiers, Reda said the people and the government were two different entities.

"We do not play politics. That's the government's business," he said, not losing his smile. 

Khaled, a driver in Algiers, said he didn't want to hear about politics either. For this former football player, "the divisions between our two countries are not those of the peoples, they are sought out only by our rulers."

Songs and horns in downtown Algiers

On social media networks, the joy for Morocco was on full dislay.

"Congratulations to the Moroccan team and its coach who knew how to thwart the plans of the Spanish Armada," Brahim Zenia, a musician, wrote on Facebook.

"Morocco in the big leagues. A worthy ambassador of African football," Mourad Belouachrani, another Algerian, said in a Facebook post.

“Morocco reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Good achievement in itself. Regragui has become the first African coach to bring his team to such a level,” said journalist Hocine Adryen.

In downtown Algiers, groups of young people celebrated the victory by singing songs about the glory of Moroccans as deafening horns blared.

"It is true that this is not just a football match. Morocco's victory against Spain adds to my pride in belonging to the Maghreb of the peoples," wrote academic and political activist Fodil Boumala.

Algeria's state-run TV channel and the APS, the official press agency, did not mention Morocco's victory.

The TV channel only announced Spain's elimination from the tournament, while the APS ignored the match completely.

*This article was originally published in French

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