DOHA, Qatar — On board the seven planes that traveled to the World Cup from Morocco in 24 hours, each passenger received a backpack splashed with that country’s national colors and filled with a t-shirt and hats. ‘a flag.
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Every plane was overflowing with Moroccan fans heading to Qatar for the sole purpose of watching what would be a historic quarter-final against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal. As Morocco cruise to the semi-finals as the first African nation to progress this far in a World Cup, Doha could continue to serve as Morocco’s de facto capital.
The flights are the result of an agreement between the Moroccan football federation, its government and a regional airline. Between those who fly to support the team and those who already live in Qatar, the host country was expected to welcome around 15,000 Moroccans to its territory during the World Cup.
“We came for today’s game and we will come back tomorrow, after beating Cristiano Ronaldo,” said Omar, one of the reserved Moroccan supporters on the seven flights to Doha, whose words proved prophetic during of Morocco’s 1-0 defeat at the Al Thumama stadium.
The agreement between Morocco’s Ministry of National Education, Preschool and Sports and the Royal Moroccan Football Federation made possible seven return flights at a cost of around $470 per passenger, according to the participating airline. They were all sold out by Saturday morning.
The flights had a capacity of between 274 and 340 passengers. and they started arriving in Doha on Friday afternoon and up to five hours before kick-off. In total, around 2,500 Moroccan supporters landed in Qatar during this period. The passengers were due to return on Sunday.
“What we need now are tickets,” said Hamid, one of the supporters who arrived in the morning.
Finding tickets has been a problem since Morocco’s penalty shootout against Spain in the round of 16. In this case, the Moroccan embassy in Qatar announced that it had made available 5,000 tickets for its citizens. The same offer had not been made before Morocco’s upset against Portugal.
Ahead of the semi-final against France on December 14, an agreement between the Moroccan football federation, the government and a local airline will allow 30 planes full of Moroccan fans to arrive in Doha between Tuesday and Wednesday. The new agreement maintains the fare of $470 for the round trip (the same as for the clash in Portugal).
The 30 planes with an average of 310 passengers will transport nearly 10,000 people from Morocco to Doha, nearly double the approximately 13,000 Moroccans already living in Doha. The airline has also opened the possibility for Moroccan supporters already present in Qatar to modify the date of their return.
Source : BBN WORLD NEWS