RABAT – Jubilant Moroccans took to the streets of this capital and several cities, including in Europe, to celebrate the historic victory of their country’s soccer team over Spain in the World Cup on Tuesday.

Waving flags and honking their car horns, fans celebrated the Atlas Lions’ victory on penalties, which made Morocco the only non-European or South American team to reach the quarterfinals in Qatar.

Never before has an Arab team made it into the top eight phase of a World Cup.

“We are very proud of our Lions, who fought hard to get us to the quarterfinals,” said Rabat-based Niama Meddoun. “We are delighted today to be Moroccan, as we are the first Arab country to have reached the quarterfinals.”

King Mohamed VI of Morocco praised the national team and sent his “heartfelt congratulations” to the footballers, the coaching staff and the administrative staff, “who gave their all and charted a path in this great sporting event,” according to a statement. of the royal palace.

The monarch said the players represented the “hopes and dreams of Moroccans, whether in Morocco, Qatar or anywhere else in the world.”

Morocco is the only Arab or African country still in the running at the first-ever World Cup to be held in the Middle East. Its success has resonated throughout the Arab world, as well as among Moroccans and other immigrant communities in Europe.

In Barcelona, ​​Spain’s second-largest city, crowds of young people waved Moroccan, Egyptian, Algerian and Palestinian flags downtown. There, Barcelona fans usually celebrate great victories.

The crowd danced to the sound of the drums, while some attendees lit sparklers.

In a Barcelona restaurant, where customers had congregated, people jumped on top of tables and lifted chairs high. Outside, car horns blared and people set off firecrackers and green and red smoke bombs.

Youssef Lotfi, a 39-year-old construction worker, was born in Casablanca but moved to Spain as a child. He said that he feels love for both countries, but he celebrated proudly.

“Today is a day of joy for Moroccans and everyone in the Arab world,” Lotfi said. “It was a heart attack ending that could have favored anyone.”

He considered the victory a “once in a lifetime” experience.

“Morocco represents the entire Arab world, the entire African continent. This is indescribable, it is the most glorious part,” she commented.

In Ceuta, the Spanish enclave that borders Morocco on the northern African coast, the victory also sparked celebrations. Ceuta’s population is a mix of Spaniards, Moroccan residents and workers.

“That pride! What happiness! Now, to celebrate with friends. I have lost my voice,” said Ismael Mustafa, 20. “We were able to settle this. What about Spain? I’m sure he’ll win next time, so don’t worry.”

Celebrations across Spain, where there are some 800,000 Moroccan residents, were mostly peaceful. Some Spanish media reported a brief scuffle between Moroccan and Spanish fans in a bar in the southern city of Huelva.

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