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FIFA 22 – A world without border

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As we approach the penultimate round of 22nd edition of the most viewed and colorful world cup in history of sports, the most talked about match will be between France and Morocco. The exemplary performance of the North African side, nicknamed The Atlas Lions has to some extent overshadowed the other two more established semi-finalists. The whole world may for a change be more eager if not to be equally interested to witness the lions hunting in pack over one of the greatest football magicians of our time.

Morocco will have the support of the entire Arab world and as underdogs will also be cheered by most neutral fans. However their path to semis is like history being re-written. In their five matches in the tournament so far, Morocco has faced two of its former colonizers – Spain and Portugal. Spain colonized northern parts of the country along the Mediterranean coast, while the Portuguese largely took control of strategically-placed coastal towns in the 16th/17th century. In the group stages, Morocco also brushed aside Belgium, who never formally colonized the North African kingdom but were a former co-administrator of the Tangier International Zone, which served as a ‘neutral’ region under several European countries’ administration between 1924 and 1956.

France has deep rooted bitter sweet connection, having occupied large parts for more than four decades with Rabat gaining independence in 1956. French is spoken by more than one third of the Moroccan population with Spanish being the second and third language in the previously occupied regions.

For people from the subcontinent we may relate to the burning desire of the Moroccans and greater Arab world to succeed as we have felt in the early days of the cricketing encounter with our erstwhile rulers.

Football may have finally crossed political maps with the match being more of a contest of diaspora against players whose roots lie in the African content. A few notable examples from Moroccan side being Spain-born Achraf Hakimi, France-born Sofiane Boufal and Romain Saiss. Even their coach Walid Regragui was born and raised in France. As far as the French team is concerned, 13 players have strong connect to Africa– Mbapee to Cameroon & Algeria, Konate/Kante/Diaby to Mali, Tchoumanni to Cameroon among the notable ones.

It may not be very wrong to say in today’s globalized world, countries exist on maps but sports is between two playing elevens. Only time will tell which country progresses, but Africa is no longer behind Latin America in producing some of the best footballers. It may not be a surprise to see Morocco taking clue from their brother country Tunisia who caught France on the wrong foot in the group stage.

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