Dutch Moroccans only talk about football these days. At work, on the street, in the supermarket. Children go to school in red soccer jerseys with a green five-pointed star. The question is not whether you will watch the game on Saturday, but where you will watch it.
This is not surprising, says Soufiane Touzani, 36, a world-famous freestyle soccer player from Rotterdam. For the first time ever, Morocco reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup. And there are more. This hope is not based on quicksand.”
After Morocco’s victory over Spain last Tuesday, an explosion of almost un-Dutch joy ensued. In the big cities, people drove around in cars and motorbikes honking their horns and waving Moroccan flags. Well, says Soufiane Touzani. I saw a Dutch boy and his father, who hadn’t seen each other for a year. They shook hands and hugged each other. The Moroccan Dutch do it differently. We show more emotions.”
In addition to the parties, riots broke out in various cities between young Dutch Moroccans and the police. The police were pelted with eggs and (heavy) fireworks. Thirty-five people were arrested in Rotterdam on Tuesday, 10 in Amsterdam and The Hague and four in Amersfoort.
Why so many feelings for a country where you weren’t even born? Indeed, where maybe only grandfather and grandmother were born? “Look at it this way,” Tozzani says. “My dad is Holland, my mom is Morocco. I love both of them very much. But when it comes down to it, my mom is a little more important.”
Tuzani means: There is definitely an allegiance to the Netherlands. But the Netherlands itself often considers him and other Dutch Moroccans as outsiders. “When I walk down the street, no one thinks: ‘There goes Gert or Jiron.’ It doesn’t matter that I look Moroccan. But it does matter.”
Celebrate it all over the world
Watch here the seed of the massive enthusiasm for Morocco. The country that the Dutch-Moroccans are associated with all day put in a world-class performance. The victory was celebrated all over the world. The videos appear on Tiktok with Moroccan football fans from London, Copenhagen and New York. “It shows we’re good too,” says the 30-year-old – who was born in the Netherlands – at a Moroccan party dress shop in central Rotterdam. “Being Moroccan is seen as a negative thing. When I go to apply for a job, especially with a hijab, I’m treated with restraint. At best.” Now the Moroccans are doing something amazing.
I was born and raised in the Netherlands, says Fred, 33, manager of the Pink Elephant sushi and grill restaurant, near the boutique. “I love Holland and Morocco. But in Holland, you don’t end up being accepted, no matter how well you do.”
Football journalist Nordin Godani, 45, from the popular YouTube talk show inside the macro, He puts it this way: “The country of Morocco is moving away from us more and more. But football is bringing it closer again. Especially if there are Dutch Moroccans like Amrabat, Mazraoui, Aboukhalal and Ziyech in the team. The national team is the binding agent between the European Moroccans and Morocco. The more successful the team, the more successful the team will be. The feeling became stronger.
The entire Moroccan community is enjoying the success of Moroccan football. Usually, Farid says, watching football is mainly a man’s thing, especially outside the home. “My mom doesn’t really look at a restaurant.” But in the two games Morocco played, its case was full of women. And they went completely crazy. Fred: Awesome! It was also wonderfully played. This goalkeeper! Garage door! Just serving food was not possible. Everyone was jumping and cheering. Are you standing in front of table number 10 with dishes in hand table 10? where? Next game we will only serve snacks.”
The ‘anti-negativity reinforcement’ is also why a video of dancing police officers in Amsterdam-Osdorp went viral on social media after Morocco’s victory. Next to a police officer of Moroccan descent, a white police officer dances to the sounds of Moroccan drums. It is sent every time. Hundreds of reactions along the lines of: “God, I love Holland.” and “It is possible!”
Read alsoThis report: In Rotterdam, the question of the atmosphere is always changing
The nicest hug
Because of football, attention is turning to the beautiful aspects of Moroccan culture, say two young women on the streets of Rotterdam. What’s Next? They say respect for parents, for example. “Look what the Moroccan soccer players do after the match. Youssef En-Nesyri kisses his father and thanks him. Achraf Hakimi runs to the edge of the field to hug his mother, who was in the audience.” Said, 49, standing with fruit at the market on Visserijplein in West Rotterdam, thinks the hugs are the most beautiful he has seen during the World Cup. You know why they do that, right? Jennifer [het paradijs] under your mother’s feet.”
The last time he prepared for football was in 1986, when Morocco reached the eighth final. “I was young. I saw a match in Morocco in a café and had to buy a drink to watch the match. But I had no money and watched the match secretly under the table.”
He’s already figuring out how to play the game on Saturday, and he can’t just close his booth. “Opposite the market, there is a Moroccan café. Clean the booth, watch the first half over there.” Then home quickly. “Sister comes, mother comes, everyone comes.”
A little further afield, Bouchra Botonou, 38, a primary school volunteer, is at the booth, wearing scarves and hats. “I never watch football. This time is important. I watch with my two children and my husband. They are crazy about football. We bought Moroccan flags.”
Football players are role models for children, Bushra says: “My daughter has become a football fan. My son plays futsal. He sees soccer players as an example. It also makes him prouder. Perhaps the youth will now train differently and play football differently, because they see what the Moroccan national team has achieved.”
You are partying on the street
If Morocco beats Portugal on Saturday, the Dutch-Moroccans will celebrate fervently in the street again. This is a custom in Morocco that has spread to the Netherlands, according to football journalist Nordin Godani. “Life happens on the street there. It’s warm and late in the dark. You party on the street.”
At the same time, cities are preparing to deal with riots. The Dutch Moroccans are invariably annoyed by the hooligans. But they say there are approximately 420,000 Dutch people of Moroccan descent. Why is it always just about riot guys?
And by the way, the punishment of seven of the 35 hooligans in Rotterdam is not mild. They must inform the police before the match against Portugal on Saturday. Then they will be interrogated.
A version of this article also appeared in the December 9, 2022 newspaper