The Moroccan “Atlas Lions” have captured the hearts of many in Africa and the Arab world by beating the giants of world football. Here we have gathered 10 things you might not know about Morocco.
After crushing heavyweights Spain and Belgium/Belgium in the group stages and round of 16, Morocco pulled off a stunning 1-0 win over Portugal in the quarter-finals last weekend to face defending World Cup champions France in the semi-finals.
The success of this North African team has surprised everyone. When Cameroonian star Samuel Eto’o predicted that Morocco would reach the World Cup finals, he was laughed at online.
Eto’o’s prediction that Cameroon would be another African finalist did not come true and his team was eliminated in the group stage.
Ahead of Morocco’s semi-final meeting with France on Thursday morning (AEST), here are 10 things you might not know about the Atlas Lions and their country.
1. “Giant Killers”
The Moroccan national team has repeatedly overcome the opposite winds in this World Cup and is the first African team to advance to this stage.
Moroccan team fans after the team’s victory against Portugal in the quarter-finals
Source: Getty / NurPhoto
Many observers saw little chance for Morocco in a group that featured 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia/Croatia, star-studded Belgium and selected Canadian players.
But Sheeran Atlas, under the wonderful leadership of their French-born coach, Walid Regraghi, had other ideas.
They followed up a 0-0 draw in their opening match against Croatia on 23 November with a shock 2-0 win over Belgium five days later. Morocco won their final group stage match against Canada 2-1 and topped their group with 7 points – two more than Croatia.
Belgium, who reached the semi-finals in 2018, went home.
In the round of 16, Morocco faced Spain and after a 0-0 draw, they eliminated the 2010 World Cup champions with a penalty. In this way, Shiran Atlas stepped into a new territory; The last time this team reached the round of 16 was in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
Morocco ended soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo’s chances of adding a World Cup title to his illustrious record with a surprise 1-0 win over Portugal in the quarter-finals. This veteran superstar will be 41 years old by the time of the next World Cup.
Ashraf Hakimi of Morocco after scoring the winning penalty against Spain.
Source: Getty / Alexander Hassenstein
Spectators are now asking whether former Brazilian footballer Pele’s 1977 prediction that one day the World Cup will go to Africa will finally come true in 2022.
2. the key to success?
Having the support of loved ones in person is perhaps one of the secrets of the Moroccan team’s success in this year’s World Cup.
It has been reported that all Moroccan team players were allowed to select their family members to attend the World Cup matches in Qatar.
Recently, the photos and videos that showed Ashraf Hakimi rushing to his mother to celebrate his team’s victory against Belgium with her took over the entire virtual world.
“Our success is not possible without our parents,” Walid Regraghi said when he took over as the head coach of Sheeran Atlas less than three months before the start of the World Cup.
3. Arab or African?
The two main groups of people in Morocco are the Berbers (indigenous people of northwest Africa) and the Arabs (who conquered Morocco and spread Islam in the 8th century).
The issue of whether Morocco is an African or Arab country has been discussed for a long time, because this country is geographically located in Africa, but culturally it is close to the Middle East.
While Arabic and Berber are the two official languages of the country, French is also widely spoken.
Morocco has been ruled by the Romans, Arabs, French, and Spanish at different times, all of which have helped shape the country’s diverse culture, including food, clothing, and architecture.
While the team members waved the Palestinian flag to celebrate their victory, their success has led many to call them the “Pride of Africa”.
Sheeran Atlas fans celebrated their team’s victory against Portugal in Rabat, the capital of Morocco.
Source: Getty / Fadel Senna/AFP
4. Why is the Moroccan team called Shiran Atlas?
Morocco fans sometimes wear t-shirts with the lion logo on them.
The Atlas lion, also known as the Barbary lion, Berber lion, or North African lion, became extinct in and around Morocco in the 1960s. It is believed that this lion was a distinct species.
Genetic tests conducted after the extinction of its generation show that this lion was actually of Asian origin.
The name Atlas lions is derived from the lions who were once the kings of the northern parts of Africa.
Source: AAP / Mohamed Messara/EPA
5. From absolute to constitutional
The official name of this country is actually the ‘Kingdom of Morocco’ and like the UK, it is a constitutional monarchy and has a royal family.
Shah Muhammad VI ascended the throne in 1999 after the death of his father, Shah Hassan II.
After the ‘Arab Spring’ that challenged the monarchy, a referendum was held in Morocco in 2011, which resulted in the establishment of a parliamentary monarchy. But critics have said that the new system has not helped much to reduce the power of the ruling elite.
6. Morocco has snow-capped mountains
While tourists go to Morocco with the idea of strolling through ‘souks’ (local markets) and seeing views of the Sahara desert and palm groves, the country also has ski fields.
The high peaks of the Atlas Mountains are covered in snow during parts of the year.
“Okayimden” ski resort is located at an altitude of 2,600 to 3,200 meters.
Many people mistakenly think that the city of Morocco is the capital of Morocco, when in fact the city of Rabat is the center of the country.
Morocco had the title of capital for about 200 years, and of course other cities also had this title for a while.
Rabat has been the capital of Morocco since 1912.
The city of beautiful minarets and domes, Fez, has been the capital more than once, and Meknes, which was originally a military town, also had this title for a while.
At one stage Fez was the capital of Morocco.
Source: Getty / Maremagnum
Casablanca, which houses more than four million people out of the country’s 37 million population, is the largest city and economic center of Morocco.
8. National food
The national dish of Morocco is couscous. This dish is traditionally prepared from meat, vegetables and a type of wheat called semolina.
Moroccans often use mutton, lamb, goat, chicken and beef with spices such as cinnamon, ginger and saffron in their dishes.
Couscous dish in a restaurant in Morocco
Source: Getty / Peter Bischoff
9. Home of the oldest educational institution in the world
Morocco is home to the oldest educational institution in the world.
It has registered Al-Karaouine as the oldest existing and continuously active educational institution in the world.
Al-Karaouin, which has now become a university, was founded in 859 AD in the city of Fez and according to
Travel website “Atlas Obscura”
, this center still uses traditional teaching methods, so that students circle around the teachers.
“El Karaoin” in the city of Fez is the oldest educational institution in the world.
Credit: DEA / 2 P/De Agostini via Getty Images
10. zero point border
Morocco’s success in football has put this country in the limelight and can put it on the map of the world’s tourist centers in the coming years.
But there is an interesting thing about the map of Morocco – the country has one of the shortest international borders in the world at its northern point.
At its northern point, Morocco shares an eight-kilometer border with the Spanish autonomous city of Ceuta.
This region and another Spanish region (Melilla) located along the same northern coast of the Mediterranean are the only land borders between Africa and the European Union.