Montreal erupts as Morocco beats Portugal to secure historic World Cup semifinal berth

Montreal is home to more than 50,000 Moroccan immigrants and tens of thousands of others with ties to North Africa. When the referee's final whistle blew on Saturday, they set off fireworks, danced, cheered and cried.

Supporters flooded the streets of the Petit Maghreb neighbourhood

Moroccans take to the streets in Montreal after latest World Cup win

4 months ago
Duration 0:47
Celebrations erupted in Montreal's Petit Maghreb neighbourhood after Morocco defeated Portugal in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Jean-Talon Boulevard erupted in uncontrolled joy on Saturday afternoon as Moroccan supporters danced, cheered and cried over their team's historic World Cup quarter-finals victory.

Morocco beat Portugal 1-0, making them the first ever African squad to secure a spot in the World Cup semifinal, the largest soccer tournament in the world. When the referee's final whistle blew on Saturday, they flooded out of cafés and apartments to celebrate. 

"It's history being made. You see the joy on everyone's face … it speaks volumes about the pride that this team brought us," said Moroccan-born Montrealer Noureddine Douay.

"We played for Africa, we played for the Arab world."

Red and green smoke wafted through the Petit Maghreb neighbourhood, the heart of Montreal's sizable Moroccan and North African community. The city is home to more than 50,000 Moroccan immigrants and tens of thousands of others with ties to the country.

crowd of people waving Morocco flags in Montreal to celebrate world cup win.
Montrealers flooded Jean-Talon Boulevard on Saturday afternoon after Morocco beat Portugal to advance to the World Cup semifinal. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)

"They deserved to win," said Bouchaib Kaebori, who was born in Morocco, as the boom of fireworks sounded amid the revellers. He wore a Moroccan flag draped over his shoulders, a visible sign of the pride for his home country.

"We are really, really proud as Moroccan-Canadians. We won against some of the biggest teams in the world: Belgium, today Portugal, even Spain." 

Above the crowd, dozens of Moroccan flags fluttered in the wind. But the green star of Morocco was joined by the crescent moon of Algeria and the Palestinian ensign. Moroccan supporters say they feel the entire Arab world is throwing its support behind the team. 

"Nobody believed in us … This year the cup is for us, no doubt," Zizou Lina told CBC in Petit Maghreb.

"We're so proud to be Moroccan."

The crowd chanted and danced outside the Café Sable d'or on Jean-Talon Boulevard, just east of Saint-Michel Metro station, at the heart of the Petit Maghreb neighbourhood.

The neighbourhood held a sense of bubbling anticipation before the Saturday morning showdown with Portugal. But earlier this week, Moroccan Montrealers said they were confident of their team's success. 

Green and red smoke wafted above Montreal as Moroccan supporters chanted and cheered their team's victory in the World Cup quarter final. (Jay Turnbull/CBC Montreal)

"At first I really thought Brazil was going to win but when we made it to the quarter finals, I realized we can go really far," said Maryam Beghdali after the big game.

"I'm really happy for us. It's the first time in history that Morocco has made it this far in the World Cup so I'm really excited to see if we're going to make it to the final or we're actually going to win it." 

Morocco is set to play against France on Wednesday to determine who will go to finals.

With files from Jay Turnbull


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