Morocco and the World Cup

Foreign Policy Brief #158 | By: Reilly Fitzgerald | December 12, 2022

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Morocco fans celebrate outside the stadium after advancing into the World Cup semi-finals on December 10, 2022.

Photo taken from: Showkat Shafi / Al Jazeera

Policy Summary

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At this point in the FIFA World Cup there are four teams remaining, as we enter the semi-final stage: France, Morocco, Croatia, and Argentina. This World Cup, as previously documented by US Renew News, has been fraught with controversies ranging from alcohol consumption at stadiums to major international relations issues, such as the usage of slave labor and corrupt money to build the infrastructure to host the tournament, and more.

The tournament is set for an intriguing and compelling final few matches. The last time a South American nation won the World Cup was Brazil in 2002; and the last time Argentina has won a World Cup was 1986. Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi will lead his team into their semi-final match tomorrow against Croatia, a team that has never won the World Cup, but finished in second place in the last World Cup hosted in Moscow in 2018.

France and Morocco are set to square off on Wednesday in what is sure to be as emotional and as political as Iran v. United States match. Morocco gained their independence from France in 1956 after many, many years, of colonial rule which has shaped that country ever since. Morocco is the first African nation to ever reach the semi-finals of the World Cup. This match-up is more representative of colonial history and the role of France in global affairs than it is about football, in many ways.

Policy Analysis

Colonialism plagued the world for centuries, and many would argue that the United States carries on this political strategy still; however, there is no country more famous for its colonial possessions than France. The French government possessed wide swaths of land in North America, Africa, and some smaller pieces of land in Asia. 

This history of colonialism has led to much social commentary surrounding France and the role that immigration, from their former colonial regions, has led to their success as a footballing nation. 

The economic and political conditions that have plagued many parts of Africa since the mid-1900s have been the direct result of colonialist policies enacted by European countries and the United States of America. A vast majority of the ten worst economies in the world are found in Africa, and many of those are former French colonies. In 1956, Morocco gained its independence from France along with Tunisia; Algeria, later, gained its independence in 1962 after a military campaign that relied on terroristic efforts from both sides.

France has long struggled with its identity, and what makes a French person French. Immigration has, as it has in many countries, complicated the French national identity. Immigration statistics show that almost 25% of immigrants to France are from North Africa especially from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia; according to the Institut National D’Études Demographiques

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The Qatar World Cup is an attempt to shatter colonial myths; instead of mimicking ex-colonial powers, the event is being used to decolonise biased thinking about Arab and Muslim cultures from hosting this experience on the world stage.

Photo taken from: TBA

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Many famous French football players are of North African descent, with the most famous being Zinedine Zidane whose parents hailed from Algeria.

 Even more recent players such as global sensation Kylian Mbappé’s parents are from Africa – his father was born in Cameroon and his mother was born in Algeria; and, although he is missing from the World Cup, this year’s Ballon D’Or winner (award given to best player of the year globally) Karim Benzema’s parents are Algerian and he is a practicing Muslim, as well. It is estimated that there are over a million Moroccans living in France as part of the Moroccan diaspora.


Culturally, Morocco and France are heavily related due to the presence of the French language in Moroccan society. Although Arabic is the most dominant language in Morocco, French is still regularly taught in Moroccan schools and still understood and used by many citizens.

The Arab world was heavily criticized and rejected by many prominent, and particularly European, critics as not being a “footballing” region and therefore should not be hosting the World Cup. Countries such as Qatar, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, which were included in this year’s tournament, went home fairly early and have left Morocco as the sole Islamic, and Arab, nation. 

Morocco stunned the world and Cristiano Ronaldo’s star-studded Portuguese team to advance to this late round – not too shabby for a ‘non-footballing’ nation. The hopes of an African nation to finally be liberated from what started as a European sport rest on the shoulders of the Moroccan “Atlas Lions”. 

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on resource URL to visit links where available 

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Human Rights Watch – 10 Questions Journalists Should Ask FIFA and Qatari Officials About Rights Abuses (  )

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