RAMALLAH: Morocco’s support for the Palestinians during the Atlas Lions’ historic World Cup run shows the cause has not been “buried,” says Palestinian Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub.
Like several other Arab nations, Morocco has agreed to full diplomatic ties with Israel — but this has not stopped its players from making clear their loyalties regarding the decades-old conflict.
They unfurled a Palestinian flag on the pitch after their stunning Dec. 6 upset victory against Spain, and also after beating Canada during the group stage.
Moroccan players have also made pro-Palestinian social media posts during the tournament.
Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Gaza and annexed East Jerusalem have — like much of the Middle East — embraced Morocco, the first Arab nation to reach a World Cup semifinals.
Ramallah sporting goods store owner Saeed Al-Ramahi said enthusiasm for the Moroccan team seemed unquenchable, with all of their jerseys sold out. “If I had 300,000 shirts, I would have sold them all in the last two days,” he said.
Rajoub, the Palestinian top football official, said this proves the enduring support for the Palestinian cause, regardless of any decisions made by Arab leaders.
“The World Cup reveals the lie that the Palestinian cause has been buried by the recent normalization agreements” said Rajoub, who is also the secretary-general of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement.
Rajoub described the World Cup, including the Moroccan gestures and the widespread expressions of Palestinian solidarity across Qatar, as “a slap in the face to the idea of normalization.”
The leading Palestinian public polling group, in a study released on Tuesday, argued that “the World Cup in Qatar helps restore Palestinian public trust in the Arab world after years of disappointment.”
“The vast majority of the Palestinians say they have now regained much, or some, of the lost confidence in the Arab peoples in light of the solidarity with Palestine expressed by the fans during the football games,” said the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.
Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for Gaza’s rulers Hamas, said the World Cup has affirmed the importance of the Palestinian cause “on the international scene.”