Benatia’s response to the viral picture of a group of boys from the impoverished Taza region shows that the Lion has a heart.
Rabat – Medhi Benatia, the captain of Morocco’s Atlas Lions, has made watching CAN 2019 possible for a group of Moroccan Lions’ fans in the Douar Ait Baaziz village, in the Taza region, in northern Morocco.
On June 28, Morocco’s national squad played against Ivory Coast in their second outing in Group D. The Taza boys, apparently due to the dire lack of resources in their neighborhood, had no TV from which they could watch the much-anticipated Group D clash between Morocco’s Lions and Ivory Coast’s elephants.
But the lack of access to TV was not going to stand in the boys’ way, nor preclude them from watching their national team. So they put a smartphone on what looked like table, in front of, judging from the image, at least a dozen of boys, watching the game as though from a big screen in one of those chic cafes across Morocco.
The image, which was later shared online by fans who saluted the patriotism and hearty gesture of the group of boys, stirred a vociferous debate about solidarity on social media.
Soccer 212, a widely followed Moroccan football-focused Twitter account, disseminated the images of the boys, calling for a fund-raising campaign to finance for a TV set with “all the necessary materials” so the boys could watch the remainder of CAN in much better conditions.
Echoes of the Taza boys’ show of enthusiasm for the national squad subsequently reached some quarters of the national team. Medhi Benatia, the team’s captain, then decided to respond in kind, gifting the boys with a TV set. The gesture was just as eloquent as the Taza fan boys’ show of unconditional love for the national team.
Soccer 212 later tweeted, “Yesterday our team decided to organize a ‘Letchi’ solidarity fund-raising to come in help to the Taza boys by buying them a TV set and all the accompanying materials so they can watch the matches of the national team under much better conditions, and no longer on a phone screen.
God willing, and thanks to your show of solidarity, the message made the rounds on social media, especially on Twitter, and reached the ears of some members of the national team.”
Benatia steps up
Soccer 212 went on to recount how one member of the national squad, Benatia, decided to “take the whole matter in his own hands.” The group announced that “it was very happy” to announce that it was “cancelling” its solidarity fund “because Benatia has decided to claim the entire responsibility.”
For his part, the Atlas Lions captain explained that there was nothing grand about his gesture. Instead, he argued, it was a normal show of appreciation and love for the millions of Moroccans who unconditionally love and support their national team, bestowing on players the highest degree of appreciation and affection.
“When you watch something like this,” the 32-year-old defender tweeted, referring to the widely shared image of the Taza boys watching the match against Ivory Coast, “one can only wish to give back, give away everything. This is for you my boys; we will do everything to make you happy.”
The whole episode highlighted the outburst of solidarity and passion that can accompany football, especially in football-crazed Morocco where the sport has lifted hundreds out of the prevailing precariousness in remote areas and low-income neighborhoods in big cities.
Morocco currently leads its group after winning the first two matches. The Lions will take on South Africa’s Bafana Bafana later today, at 5 p.m Moroccan time.
Against Ivory Coast, Benatia and his teammates put on a thunderously impressive display which helped to put to rest the doubts that Moroccan fans had been entertaining about the team’s prospects, while also sending a raucous warning to potential rivals.
A victory tonight against South Africans will seal the reputation that the Moroccan Lions earned themselves after their impressive game against the Ivoirians.
But ultimate victory in this tournament, given the depth of quality available in the other squads competing for the ultimate continental glory, will call for sustaining—and even raising—the level Coach Herve Renards’ lads exuded against Ivory Coast.