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A Game of Unity
By Jack Campagna, YES Abroad 2023-2024 Morocco
Since arriving in Morocco in July of 2023, I have noticed Moroccans' admiration and passion for football (soccer). I see the game being played as I walk by local stadiums, in the park, in the streets and even on cafe televisions. I also see the famed Morocco men's national team make their appearance on advertisements across Rabat, and their jerseys sold in the old Medina. It may be a common sport around the world, but I recently discovered how Morocco has proven that football is more than just a game.
In October me and my Yes Abroad cohort took a trip to the city of Agadir to watch the men’s national soccer team play against Liberia in the African Cup qualifications. Never having been interested in football, I was optimistic to see what a football game in Morocco was all about and who the fans were. Driving to the stadium I saw fans holding Moroccan flags out of the window of their cars yelling chants. The traffic and lines of people heading to the stadium seemed as if the entire city was going to watch the game. I even saw teenagers jump the fence in hopes of entering the already filled stadium. Once inside the stadium, the immense crowds and loud noises felt energetic. It was a sea of green and red flags, jerseys, and banners (the colors of Morocco). As the game started, the crowds started singing songs together, including the national anthem, and chanting siir meaning “let’s go” in Darija. At halftime, as Morocco scored 1:0, fireworks started to blast in celebration and everyone in the stadium did a moving wave with their hands across the stadium several times, with one person leading the stadium. Me and my cohort learned some of the chants and even followed with the crowd as the hand wave came to us. In addition, everyone in the stadium waved their phone flashlights into the air. I too waved my phone while feeling a sense of unity.
With the game over and Morocco beating Liberia 3:0, everyone in the stadium felt proud. Having bought a Moroccan flag the day before, me and my cohort posed for photos. But pretty soon one boy and then multiple boys started asking me to use my flag to take photos. All of them holding the flag proudly. Leaving the stadium, people were in high spirits. Driving away, I saw a bunch of people partying. Even the local McDonalds overflowed with fans. Once in the downtown of Agadir, two fans chant Dima Maghrib or “Always Morocco” to me as I walk by with my jersey on.
After the game I felt that despite the successful football game, my highlight of the night was the energetic stadium. Never interested in football, I felt connected with the fans. Everyone's shared love for football felt connecting, and participating alongside Moroccans united with pride made me proud too. Despite being a foreigner, and getting many looks, I was welcomed by nearby fans as I waved the Moroccan flag. As I could still feel Moroccans recovering after the devastating earthquake in September, I felt the unity that sports can bring during hard times. Now I know that Moroccans' love for football stems not only from wins in games but from the unity it brings to connect people with a shared passion.