Morocco and Spain are off-pitch rivals

The duel between Spain and Morocco, which opens Tuesday in the World Cup, at 12h (Brasília time), is not an ordinary game. The seventh game of the round of 16 in Qatar puts face to face two countries that are geographically close, but that have had a complicated relationship in recent decades.

When Hakimi, Ziyech and Amrabat are on the field against Pedri, Gavi and Morata, entire neighborhoods of Spain will be in front of the TV cheering for the North African team. According to data from the Spanish government, currently around 870,000 Moroccans live in Spanish territory. Unofficial numbers increase the figures to up to 1 million people.

ziyech - Matthias Hangst/Getty Images - Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Ziyech celebrates scoring for Morocco against Canada

Image: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

The tension between the two countries is currently mainly due to issues arising from this immigration. The migratory flow of Moroccans to Spain gained strength at the turn of the 21st century, motivated by one of the greatest inequalities between neighboring countries on the entire planet: the average per capita income of Spaniards (R$ 158,000 per year) is nine times greater than of Moroccans (R$ 17,000 a year).

The increase in the number of immigrants, combined with the economic crisis that exploded in Europe at the end of the first decade of this century, led a part of Spanish society to develop a dislike for immigrants in general, but for Moroccans in particular.

According to a survey carried out by the Spanish Government’s Secretary of State and Immigration, 16% of Spaniards have “some dislike” or “a lot of dislike” for immigrants. The number grows to 35% when it comes to Moroccan immigrants; it is the worst index among all nationalities. Disgust with Latin Americans and Chinese, for example, is much lower, at 10%.

Intolerance towards immigrants in general, according to the survey, is caused by economic, religious and cultural reasons. The study also points out that antipathy is greater among those who consider themselves on the right (21%) and extreme right (34%); among those who claim to be on the left (8%) the number is much smaller.

The rejection of Moroccan immigrants in Spain has increased since 2017, the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils (City on the Mediterranean coast, also in Catalonia). The terrorist group that provoked the attacks was made up of men of Moroccan origin.

reinforced security

Since last week, when the last round of the group stage pitted Spain and Morocco against each other, leaders of Vox, a Spanish far-right party, have asked the government to reinforce security in risk areas, to “guarantee safety on the streets of the country”.

Center-left parties saw the request as a political use of the situation, to further increase the far-right organization’s discourse in its attempts to change immigration laws and make them more severe.

Last Friday (2), the Spanish police announced that an operation was created to prevent clashes between Spaniards and Moroccans. In other European cities, the games of the North African team had incidents, with emphasis on Brussels, Belgium, which had fan fights and vandalism.

In Spain, there has not yet been any record of occurrences before, during and after the African team’s other matches. After ranking first in Group F, a group of Moroccan fans went to Plaza del Sol, one of the most important spots in Madrid, but there were no problems.

Since the special device was triggered, the police have been looking for information about possible gatherings of violent Moroccan fans in Spanish cities. So far, no evidence of a more aggressive encounter has been found.


A fan holds the Moroccan flag in Brussels, capital of Belgium, after a World Cup match


In recent days, anonymous Twitter accounts have been spreading xenophobic comments about the dangers that the match could pose, always linking the Moroccans to illicit acts. In Raval, a neighborhood in Barcelona with a strong presence of the Moroccan community, there are streets decorated with the flag of the North African country.

sporting relationship

The proximity to Spain can be seen in the Moroccan national team, one of the revelations of the World Cup, which reaches the round of 16 after a goalless draw with Croatia and victories over Belgium (2-0) and Canada (2-1). .

Of the 26 called up by coach Walid Regragui, four play in Spanish football: goalkeeper Yassine Bono and striker Youssef En-Nesyri play for Sevilla; defender Jawad el Yamiq is at Valladolid; winger Ez Adbe, who belongs to Barcelona, ​​is on loan at Osasuna.

hakimi - Fadel Senna / AFP - Fadel Senna / AFP

Hakimi, full-back from Morocco, gets a kiss from his mother after victory over Belgium

Image: Fadel Senna / AFP

In addition to the Moroccans who play in Spain, there are two who were born in the Iberian country. Reserve goalkeeper Munir Mohamedi was born in Melilla, one of Spain’s autonomous cities in North Africa.

Right-back Achraf Hakimi, one of the highlights of the team, was born in Madrid. He started his career at Real Madrid and, without many chances, ended up being traded to Inter Milan. He is currently at PSG.

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