It was a classic scene, down to the post-loss heartbreak I’m accustomed to, being a Mariners fan.
A tiny, dark bar with a tiny, dark television in one corner; men drinking and smoking; my neighbors shouting at the players to “cover the ball, cover the damn ball.” The only difference is I’m in Morocco, watching the country’s opening soccer game against Tunisia in the Africa Cup of Nations.
It did not take long for me to refer to the Moroccan soccer team as “my” team. Although I had only been in North Africa for about three days, I already felt like I had been adopted into this beautiful country that is my temporary home. In four days, I had been stranded at the airport, surrounded by children begging for money, had a monkey thrown at me and walked down narrow cobblestone alleys where merchants and artisans bartered over their wares.
It was as though I had stepped into the 13th Century. However, after watching Morocco’s heartbreaking 2-1 loss against Tunisia, I realized we are not so different.
The players were scattered and not thinking ahead. They missed two easy goals and no one was playing like a team. Basically, the Moroccan soccer players Couged it. It was seriously like every Saturday in Pullman.
But like every Saturday in Pullman, there was screaming, standing and pained groans from everyone in the bar, myself included. I have never seen an eruption like the one I saw when Morocco scored. The men lept to their feet, shouted and grabbed each other in what I can only call “bro-hugs.” As much as I wanted to see Morocco beat Tunisia like every one of them, I could not help but grin at how sweet the entire situation was.
It’s the little things, like football, that bridge the cultural gaps between us. I was one of only a few women in the bar. The rest were my fellow American students. I had a view of the Atlas Mountains outside the window instead of the Palouse wheat fields. The beer I was drinking was something French instead of classic “Pullman Water” and I had a plate of olives in front of me that I suspected had been picked not too far from that bar in the tiny town of Beni Mellal.
None of that mattered, because we were all connected by one thing, just like in the U.S.: The desire to see our team slaughter the opponents. When the game ended we were connected by the post-game depression and the awkward shuffling away, not wanting to relive the game by watching the
It is experiences like this one that remind me I’m actually living in Morocco. Throwing 200 dirhams, Moroccan currency, at a man with a monkey to make him leave me alone is the mark of an inexperienced tourist. Crying in the Frankfurt Airport because I’m tired and homesick is the mark of a travel virgin. But cheering “my” team on to victory and mourning their loss is a mark, not only of an American, but also of a Moroccan.
I think I’m going to like this country.