Morocco’s Sofiane Boufal
Morocco’s Sofiane Boufal celebrates with his mother after defeating Portugal in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 quarterfinal football match at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha on December 10, 2022. The win made Morocco the first Arab and African nation to enter the World Cup semifinals. Image Credit: Reuters

Sofiane Boufal’s nimble feet have been terrorising opponents as he launched Morocco’s counters. But it’s his dance moves that have gone viral. It was the most endearing moment in the Qatar World Cup. Boufal chose to share his happiness with his mother when Morocco created history by storming into the semifinals. The unbridled joy was evident as the mother and son danced away on the sidelines of the Al Thumama Stadium while the red and green fan brigade roared in appreciation.

The Moroccan fairytale has been the story of the tournament. They were the outsiders, underdogs and minnows. Even their qualification from the group looked dim with the towering presence of Belgium and Croatia. But Morocco made the grade, overcoming tremendous odds. That was no flash in the pan as they stunned Spain and Portugal to make the last four.

After every win, the players and even their coach Walid Regragui sought out their mothers to share the joy. The clips were widely shared on social media. Boufal’s dance was just one of them.

“For me, my mum is the most important thing in my life,” Boufal said after the quarterfinal win over Portugal. “Of course, the emotions [his mother was crying] in this game make you crazy. The support of your family is the most important thing,” said the player, who was born in France and turns out for Angers in Ligue 1.

Achraf Hakimi clambering into the stands to hug his mother is an image that was repeated every time Morocco won. The photo of the 24-year-old embracing his mother in the stands after beating Spain became a rage on social media. He did that again after the historic win over Portugal.

Achraf Hakimi’s Spanish connection

The right-back earned plenty of praise for the panenka spot kick that buried Spain in the penalty shootout. After the game, he posted a picture with his mother with the caption: “I love you mum”. Born in Spain, Hakimi attended the Real Madrid youth academy but opted to represent Morocco.

“I used to drive 100 kilometres every day to take my son to Real Madrid,” his father, Hassan, said in an interview. “I am glad how his career has turned out. It gives me joy to see him succeed. I ask parents to make sacrifices for their children. I thank God for everything.”

The Paris Saint-Germain player has always credited his parents for his success. “We come from a modest family that struggled to earn a living. Today I fight every day for them. They sacrificed themselves for me,” Hakimi had said in an interview.

Wives, girlfriends and children travelling with teams are common. But Moroccan footballers brought along their parents too. It’s part of their support system. All of them are keen to highlight the sacrifices of their parents in their rise to stardom.

Walid Regragui’s recipe for success

Coach Regragui recognised that and persuaded the Moroccan Football Federation to pick up the tabs of the players’ families in Qatar. “Our success is not possible without our parents’ happiness,” he said.

Born in France, Regragui played for Toulouse, AC Ajaccio, Grenoble and Racing Santander before moving to the Moroccan club Moghreb Tetouan in 2009. He represented Morocco in international games, including the 2004 World Cup.

Regragui, who took the Morocco coaching assignment only in August, was also found making his way to the stands to celebrate with his mother, Fatima. She has resided in Paris for over five decades but has never travelled to watch Regragui play or coach.

Fatima told Moroccan sports channel Arriyadia: “During his whole career as a player and as a coach, I never travelled to watch him. This is the first competition that I left Paris for.”

From Paris to Doha

Regragui insisted that his mother comes to the World Cup in Qatar. It’s almost like a premonition. Fatima beamed with pride as she watched her son inspire Morocco to a historic semifinal spot.

Every time the Atlas Lions roar, do remember their mothers’ quiet support and immense sacrifices. Mums, they are the best.