Just got back from the football game. It's the third time I've been to a game here- and I was supporting the local colours- Green, for my team, Raja. By football, I of course mean the European form, or cora, as it's pronounced here. And my team is translated as Hope. The other main team in Casablanca is Widad. That means something like love. I'm not kidding. It gets even better. I understand the team in Rabat is called Faith. These three are the best teams in the country, these three that remain- Hope, Faith, and Love- and the greatest of these is Hope. At least, from my perspective :-)
Football is a bit more exciting here than it is in the States. I don't mean the actual game. I only took one picture of the game. No, it's the fans that make it interesting. The rivalry between Hope and Love is so strong in this city, the only city with two teams in the country, that fans have to sit on different sides of the stadium, and enter in different gates. So you look out, and see a giant sea of red. And on my side, a sea of green. After every game, there is a mini-riot of around 200 people throwing bottles, as Hope and Love fight it out. That's why it's usually helpful that they seem to always tie. It could be worse.
Oh- why I'm Rajowi- for Raja. They have a bit more of a following with the poor. Green goes well with my (blue) eyes. But mostly, the first time I went to a game, it was with Rajowi Moroccans, and so that kind of clinched it for me. On the way to the stadium I got into a taxi cab, wearing a green Raja jersey and cap, and the taxi driver ask me if I was Rajowi. "No," I replied, "Widadi." He laughed.
I find it an interesting cultural experience. I am interested in the football mainly for the cultural exchange, more than the sport, as those of you who know me would know. Yes, Mom, I even brought a book with me on the formation of the Biblical canon, just in case I needed to make use of my time. But I didn't end up reading it. :-)
There are two levels of seating, 20 Dirham and 50 Dirham (9:1 exchange rate with the dollar). We sit in the 50 Dh area- the 20 Dh area, under the clock, is more rowdy, with lots more marijuana, I'm told. Men crowd around, without lines, to get in, and there is heavy police presence to beat people back into the non-line. Usually there's about 10% women, but today, more like 3%- and a very crowded day too. Good weather, and I think it's been a long time since a Raja-Widad game.
The game was at 1430, so at about 10 I started to hear people walking down the street chanting for their team. And I live a good ways away from the stadium. This is the true religion in this country- at least for men. We got there an hour before game time, when there wasn't a lot of seating. But everyone is warming up. No cheerleaders. There's a guy bouncing a ball on his knees, feet, etc. for about 1/2 an hour, as the entertainment. In the meantime, the crowd entertains themselves by chanting and doing the wave. Everyone has flags- Widad has any flag with red in it- Moroccan, Swiss, British, Vatican- even American in the past. Raja with green. And it's really kind of beautiful to see the sea of green around you.
Then some guys come out with a stuffed eagle to take pictures with. (The eagle is the mascot for Raja.) Another guy runs down the track with a very large green flag, wearing a green sombrero. (He's the other mascot for Raja.) Widad has a guy running down the track with a red flag, and it's actually kind of neat when the two of them get together, because they will join hands, and run together. To the whistles (the equivalent of the hiss) of the crowd who really doesn't get sportsmanship. After a mock attack on each goal by the mascots, the game begins.
As for that sportsmanship bit- chants here are a little different than in America. I have never heard in the US one side yell at the other, "Shame on you." Or question the parentage of the other side, or make other sexual comments. In chant form no less. Happily, I can't understand all of the Arabic in this case. It's interesting to see how each side gets totally riled up if there's a perceived offense on their team; but doesn't see it so if their team does the same offense. But I think that's true of football the world over.
For the rest of the game, there's the requisite TPing of the field, as soldiers, gendarms, and police officers look on. A chearleader guy comes along with a large drum to lead the fans, flags get passed around, smoke bombs are released, and at one point men raise their hands,
fluttering them in the air, looking for all the world like they are in a charismatic prayer meeting, as they chant for their team. There are hawkers, but for coffee, tea, and lollipops. Sodas and sandwhiches are available during 1/2-time- when you also can perform your prayers.
And though our 50 Dh seats are about the same as the 20 Dh ones (both never cleaned, very hard, very cold) constantly men try to jump the gate into the 50 Dh area. Which would be fairly easy, if it weren't for the soldiers and police officers waiting to beat people as they try to jump. And they actually do beat them. Which doesn't stop people from trying anyway, for the sake of the questionnably better seats. Or from spending a long time arguing with the
police officer to be allowed over the gate. Which I don't quite get- they know they'll never be allowed over. For the second an officer allowed one over, there would be a flood of other would-be refugees. And yet they continue.
They actually played some football too. Nothing in the 1st half, and then Love scored early on in the 2nd. Then Hope (wearing blue today, not green) got one goal after another, for a final score that wasn't actually a tie for the first time when I've watched a match- 2:1 for Hope over Love. We left a few minutes early, before the riot started.