Motherly love boosts Morocco’s team spirit at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Morocco’s players are sharing the World Cup spotlight with some of their most ardent fans: their mothers.

Many of the players have brought their mothers and other family members to Qatar and celebrated with them in the stadiums after the team’s impressive string of victories.

Midfielder Sofiane Boufal was dancing with his mother on the field after Morocco beat Portugal 1-0 on Saturday to become the first African and Arab nation to reach the World Cup semifinals. They held hands and danced in circles to the delight of the crowd.

Defender Achraf Hakimi posted images on social media of his mother giving him a kiss on the cheek after he scored the winning penalty against Spain in the round of 16 last week. “I love you mom,” he wrote.

Even coach Walid Regragui has been celebrating with his mother, climbing into the stands after the Spain match to embrace her among jubilant Morocco fans.

“We represent Morocco, so we have an image that we have to spread around the world,” the coach said Tuesday. “And because the World Cup is the best shop window, if you like, we want to show our players and how close they are to their families. That’s part of our culture, it’s where we’re from.”

Regragui said bringing the families to the World Cup was part of the team’s strategy to perform at the highest level.

“We thought about this with the staff and we thought about details like bringing in our family members to try to build team spirit and that helped us go far in this tournament,” he said.

Morocco faces defending champion France in the semifinals on Wednesday.

Midfielder Ilias Chair said the support from the families means everything to the team.

“My parents and my wife have come … and I think all the other players have their parents and family members here as well,” he said Tuesday. “And that has given us great strength, and I hope it continues that way, because if you look at the films, at the videos after the game of players with their parents, it’s fantastic. And you see people with tears in their eyes.”

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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