Today, the diaspora represents a range of socioeconomic backgrounds – from business owners to lawyers, teachers and undocumented workers – but the majority are working-class, she explained. Picking a side Zibouh offers the term “Belgo-Moroccan” to describe people of Moroccan origin in Belgium. This has nothing to do with your passport, she said: “It’s a feeling of belonging, ” and is marked by degrees of belonging to both identities.
Aït Ahmed Abdelouhad, 46, will support Morocco, but if it is knocked out of the tournament he will support Belgium [Nicolas Fouqué/Al Jazeera] ‘If Belgium wins I won’t be completely gutted’ In another park nearby, Nassim Chouirfa, a 26-year-old software engineer, was sitting with two leaders from a local Muslim scouts group and 10 kindergarten-aged children, all dressed in matching khaki jackets and blue and white scarves. Chouirfa, who was born in Brussels, lives in Molenbeek, a vibrant multicultural, inner-city neighbourhood home to a sizeable Moroccan-origin population. He’s still nursing heartbreak after Portugal knocked Morocco out of Russia’s 2018 World Cup during the tournament’s group stage.
Abdelouhad, a sanitation worker with the local municipality, came to Belgium in 2005 from the Moroccan capital Rabat. On November 27, his country of origin and the country he now calls home will face each other at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The last – and only – time Belgium’s Red Devils and Morocco’s Atlas Lions played each other in the World Cup was in the US in 1994. Morocco lost. Abdelouhad, who was wearing track pants and a cap, was unequivocal about which team he will support.
“[Cristiano] Ronaldo is my favourite player and he destroyed Morocco, ” he said. Although Belgium is the country he knows best, Chouirfa said he’ll support Morocco because that is where his parents are from and it is this heritage that he feels more connected to, especially when it comes to food, traditions and culture. But if the Atlas Lions, 22 in the FIFA rankings, lose their matches, he will support the Red Devils, ranked second. A short stroll away, teenagers were setting off little firecrackers near an “agora”, one of the small outdoor, fenced football pitches found around the city.
‘Morocco is the mother, Belgium is the wife. You can’t choose’Brussels, Belgium – On a warm, blue-skied Sunday afternoon, Aït Ahmed Abdelouhad, 46, was kicking a football around a small concrete football field with his eight-year-old son. Nearby, teenagers ran across a basketball court while others zoomed by on skateboards and families played table tennis in the park in the neighbourhood of Saint Gilles.
He was asked to play for the Belgian national team but has said he chose Morocco as he wanted to make his “grandparents proud“. When it comes to fans picking a national team, how people self-identify is key, according to Fadil. “I know quite a lot of people who also in their identification, the way they see themselves, would use the term ‘Belgian Moroccan’ or even just Moroccan even if they’re a second or third generation, ” she said. “If they say I’ll support both, it’s an expression of the dual identities, ” Fadil added. Identity, she suggested, is also more fluid in a country like Belgium, composed of the French-speaking south and the Flemish-speaking north, and where national unity is something “exceptional”.
She said this stigmatisation and stereotypes of urban delinquency go back to migration and multiculturalism debates from the 1980s and 1990s where rhetoric revolved around immigrant communities as not deserving of social welfare. “I really hope that there won’t be any problems, ” Abdelouhad said, turning to head an orange football back to a boy in a grey hoodie. “Football is about having fun, getting along, understanding each other. ” His favourite player in the Moroccan national team is Netherlands-born Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech, who overcame difficult teenage years after the loss of his father when he was 10 years old to become a top footballer.
2022 FIFA World Cup: Belgium v Morocco Live Stream, Match
“People put all kinds of things in Belgianness, ” Fadil explained. “I think Belgium, in difference to France, is not a thick nation-state. It’s a very thin nation-state, which also allows people to have these kinds of hyphenated identities. ” Nassim Chouirfa, 26, who was born in Brussels, will support Morocco on Sunday as it is the country he feels more connected to [Nicolas Fouqué/Al Jazeera] No trouble Back on the football pitch, Abdelouhad, the municipality worker, said he just hopes that the day of the match will go smoothly. In 2017, when Morocco beat Ivory Coast 2-0 in a World Cup qualifying match, street celebrations in Brussels turned into riots in which shops were looted and windows smashed.
Sumaya Riane, a slight 23-year-old with braces and a teal-coloured headscarf, walked by carrying a bag of chocolates and flowers with three girlfriends after a brunch to celebrate her upcoming marriage. She was excited about the looming match between the two nations that are most important to her. Like Chouirfa, she was born in Belgium but plans to support her country of origin. “If Belgium wins I won’t be completely gutted, ” she said, as her friends joked about preferring certain of the teams’ players for their looks over how they play.
Belgium vs Morocco, FIFA World Cup LIVE streaming info
” On Sunday, Mohamed Akkouh, 36, will back the team that plays better [Nicolas Fouqué/Al Jazeera] In the 2018 World Cup, two players of Moroccan origin led Belgium to a decisive victory in a nail-biting match against Japan to advance to the quarter-finals. In this tournament, Belgium has no players of Moroccan heritage in its squad. Morocco has several players born in Belgium. Eighteen-year-old Bilal el Khannouss, born in a Brussels suburb and a native of the Belgian capital, plays for the football club KRC Genk under-18 division in the country’s northern region of Flanders.
Choosing a football team comes down to where one feels a greater sense of belonging, the 41-year-old suggested, and this differs even between two people who share the same background. Zibouh, herself a third-generation Belgian citizen of Moroccan origin, polled her family over WhatsApp about who they will support. “One [sister] said Morocco, the other one said Belgium. My father said both, ” she said. His words were: “C’est kifkif, ” French, then Maghrebi Arabic for, “It’s the same. ” An avid football fan, she plans to watch the match with her family. “It’s a party for us, ” she said, showing pictures on her phone of boisterous family gatherings during the last World Cup. In one she wears a garland in the colours of the Belgian flag while celebrating a Red Devils victory in the city centre. Although picking a side is difficult, “I have more connection with Belgium, ” Zibouh concluded. If Belgium is knocked out, she echoes what her sister told her: “We have the privilege to be happy if Belgium wins [or] if Morocco wins.
Belgium Morocco LIVE STREAMING: How & Where to watch
“It’s not homogeneous, it’s not monolithic, ” Zibouh explained. The diaspora has been shaped by different stages of migration. A 1964 bilateral labour agreement between the two governments led to the first big wave of mostly young men who came from northern Morocco to work in Belgium’s coal mines and later its steel and car sectors, then the country’s primary industries, according to Nadia Fadil, an associate professor in anthropology at KU Leuven who researches North African diasporas in Western Europe. Across 10 years, about 25, 000 Moroccans arrived, until labour migration was halted in 1974. After that, Moroccan students could come to Belgium on visas linked to study while wives and children were able to join the men on the grounds of family unification. Not much is known about the Moroccan communities from the period until 1974, Fadil said, although cultural contributions like mosques had already started to appear.
He worries about any trouble that could stigmatise people of Moroccan background. Discrimination against people of Moroccan heritage persists in areas such as employment and housing. A study published in 2021, for example, found that potential tenants with Moroccan-sounding names were 28 percent less likely to be called back to visit a property. Belgian government socioeconomic monitoring statistics from 2019 that Zibouh cited indicate that while the labour market situation has improved for people of Maghrebi origin, their chances of finding a job remain lower than the national average. “Moroccans have become this kind of, you could say, go-to kind of figure when it comes to racism and othering, ” Fail explained.
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