The feat of the Atlas Lions, "an upheaval in football culture"

The journey of the Atlas Lions during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar “is more than just a sporting achievement”, underlines the American think tank Atlantic Council, noting that it is “an upheaval in soccer culture.

The feat of the Moroccan national team, which reached the semi-finals of the tournament, is “an upheaval in the culture of football”, particularly for Africans, Arabs and Muslims around the world and “historic revenge for dreamers from all the countries of the South,” says the think tank in an analysis published on its website.

The World Cup in Qatar “reconfigured the rites of the event and dictated new norms in line with its Arab and Islamic values”, underlines the article, noting that Morocco, “also had some lessons to transmit”.

“The images of players bowing down to pray after every match, the celebration of family solidarity with players hugging their parents and the waving of the Palestinian flag at every commemorative photo are all acts of defiance of a football culture that is essentially centered on the West and attest to a greater diversity and inclusive set of symbols that are epistemologically different from the usual glamorous world of the World Cup,” says the US think tank.

“Similarly, the team’s fans have adopted a new motto inspired by religious teaching with the Arabic phrase ‘trust in God’ (Dirou niya), which has been widely used on social media, even by the new ambassador of the United States to Morocco, Puneet Talwar”, adds the same source.

The victories of the Atlas Lions “have been widely hailed by other countries in the South, especially those who see the resilience and fighting spirit of the Moroccan team as a reflection of their own struggle,” says the American think tank.

“Fans across the African continent and the Arab and Muslim worlds have spontaneously allied behind the Atlas Lions in defiance of their former Spanish, Portuguese, Belgian, French and British colonizers,” adds the same source.

“Metaphorically, each victory has broken the old imperialist complexes according to which European coaches and teams are intrinsically superior”, continues the American institute.

“For Arab countries in particular, a new pan-Arab sentiment has emerged that has erased decades of defeatist mentality,” notes the Atlantic Council.

“For the host country, Morocco’s victories are, by extension, the continuation and channeling of Qatari dreams in the competition and a call to all Arabs to continue dreaming”, underlines the same source, who recalls that the emir of Qatar strongly encouraged Morocco by waving the flag of the Kingdom during their match against Portugal.

Following the Atlas Lions’ qualification for the semi-finals, “millions of Arab youth and children redefined their footballing idols after the surreal sight of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo leaving the pitch in tears and found new heroes”, notes the American think tank, adding that these young people “identified themselves more with players like Hakim Ziyech, Achraf Hakimi and Yassine Bounou”.

“The story of Moroccan players is also that of first and second generation emigrants who have had mixed experiences of integration in Europe, where many were born and raised,” notes the same source.

“It points to a larger story of how Europe may have provided the investment that these athletes didn’t find ‘home’, but ultimately failed to make a real connection to their country of birth which has often been the source of discrimination and mistreatment for their communities of North African emigrants”, notes the American think tank.

“In the end, fourteen players out of twenty-six chose to represent the red and green colors of their parents during the World Cup,” explains the same source.

“As the world order begins to shift towards multipolarity, the Qatar World Cup and the consecutive symbolic triumphs of the Moroccan team can be seen as an illustration of the change of powers,” said the same source.

In the end, “the official FIFA World Cup Qatar anthem ‘Dreamers’, composed by multi-Grammy award-winning Moroccan-Swedish producer RedOne, embodies the spirit with which the Moroccan team – against all waiting – went on to beat the biggest favorites like Portugal, Spain and Belgium and progress in the competition”, notes the American think tank.

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