Photo by AP
PARIS: Crowds in Paris and other French cities erupted in shouts of joy as France advanced to the World Cup final Wednesday, while disappointed Morocco fans mingled with the exuberant supporters of the winning team.
Football fans streamed to the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, shooting off firecrackers and red flares, to an unending chorus of honking cars.
Riot police vans lined the broad thoroughfare and the base of the imposing Arc de Triomphe and white-helmeted officers roamed the crowd.
On the famous avenue, many were brandishing French flags and singing “we are in the final”.
France beat Morocco 2-0 to reach the World Cup final against Argentina, in a historic match between the defending champion and Africa’s first ever semifinalist.
Supporters from both teams gathered in bars from the boulevards of Paris to the streets of Morocco’s capital Rabat, from the cosmopolitan French Riviera city of Nice to the historic Moroccan city of Marrakech.
In central Madrid, fans celebrated on Sol Square after the match, some with red Moroccan flags draped on their shoulders, jumping up and down, and some wearing the French tricolor.
Morocco was under French rule from 1912-56, giving the match political and emotional resonance for both nations.
In Morocco, people were able to watch the match on large screens placed in public squares in cities, highlighting the history-making moment this game represents.
Paris authorities said they have deployed 2,000 police officers – 800 more than on Saturday night for the quarterfinals, when France defeated historic rival England 2-1.
Morocco has exceeded all expectationsin Qatar by beating second-ranked Belgium in the group stage and then eliminating European powerhouses Spain and Portugal in the knockout phase to reach the semifinals.
The team’s success marks the first time an Arab country — and an African country too — has made it to the World Cup semifinals.
For many in the former protectorate, the match was an opportunity to show that Morocco is a formidable foe — on the soccer pitch at least — even though immigration between the two countries has blurred the lines for many in France and in Morocco about who to support Wednesday.
Many dual nationals living in France were torn Wednesday between supporting one or the other team — while some have chosen to back both.
The Moroccan-French junior minister for youth, Sarah El Haïry, 33, grew up in Morocco before coming to France for her university studies. “I’m proud of that Moroccan team which has created momentum, which is a cohesive team, which has made exceptional achievements. And at the same time, I want … les Bleus (the French team, “the Blues”) to bring the World Cup back home,” she told Le Parisien newspaper. – AP