SINGAPORE – Abdelelah Karroum knows how to take a punch. The professional boxer, born in France to Moroccan parents, is no stranger to getting back up after falling.
Like Karroum, the World Boxing Organisation oriental super welterweight champion, the Moroccan national football team have come out swinging in the World Cup. The Atlas Lions have made history by becoming the first North African and Arab country to make the quarter-finals after beating Spain on Tuesday.
Karroum, who has been following the team’s pursuits closely, said: “It’s amazing to witness history being made and watch 11 men fight hard for their country through sport.
“We usually watch the team play in African football tournaments and rarely in the World Cup, so for them to qualify this year was already a big deal. For them to come this far now is very inspiring.”
Karroum is among many Moroccans living in Singapore who will be cheering on their team when they take on 2016 European champions Portugal on Saturday.
Business intelligence manager Mehdi Alijate, 32, said: “To see our flag in the World Cup fixtures after defeating big names in football such as Belgium and Spain makes me very proud.
“There are a few famous Moroccan players who play in the English Premier League or La Liga but this is the first time this generation of players have managed to compete together and raise the flag high.”
Ibrahim Bouhelal, 40, and his wife have been following Morocco’s games at home.
The vice-president of an e-commerce platform said: “One common thing among Asian and African countries is they play their hearts out with a lot of humility and team spirit.
“Morocco making it this far gives the whole country faith that you don’t have to be powerful or rich to succeed. With humility, team spirit and dedication, we can achieve a lot.”
Mounia Nasser, 37, plans to watch the clash at home with her family and teach her daughter to be proud of her Moroccan heritage.
“I am so proud of my origin. I am happy I get to see the team make the quarter-finals in this life,” said the co-founder of OneSpirit, a retailer selling indoor bicycles.
Karroum will be catching the game with his compatriots at a restaurant in Chijmes.
He said: “I strongly believe after this World Cup, football will have a bigger audience and inspire a lot of kids in Morocco.
“I would like to witness history for Morocco and believe they will win this World Cup.”