Morocco focuses on Spain in the Eurocup while France keeps (even more) distance from their southern partners

The clock strikes eight in Casablanca. In one of the bars that line Mohamed Zerkatouny Boulevard, one, two and three televisions are turned on simultaneously. Among the spectators, there are no Spanish or French flags, but the jubilation that erupts at each approach of Spain towards its opponent’s goal and the jubilation at France’s goal show the scale of Morocco’s chances in the semi-finals of the Eurocup. Amidst the jokes, a Moroccan spectator shouts, “Viva la France.” Reality sets in with the celebration of Spain’s second goal: “Yallah, Yallah!” (“Come on, come on,” in Spanish), he shouts. “Let’s go with Spain,” he adds.

When the referee blows the whistle at half-time, the call to prayer fills every corner of the Moroccan city. Those sitting in the front rows leave the bars and the football spectacle stops. In the 60th minute, the same faces sit in the first seats. This time the attitude is different. Still, to the final. “We go with Spain because France does not represent us. It never did,” says a young man during the game. His criticism joins the jeers of the French team at every yellow card, every shot from an unhappy fan and every shot by French national team and Real Madrid CF player Kylian Mbappé.

Rejection is beyond diplomacy and progress among citizens

A group of young people are talking during a train journey between Rabat and Casablanca. Most of their conversation is about river (Moroccan Arabic dialect), with the occasional English word sneaking in. Taylor Swift plays through the headphones of one of them to feed Her friend’s Instagram profile is full of video clips, that too in the language of Shakespeare.

Upon arrival in Casablanca, the scenario is repeated in one of the city’s bars. “We don’t want to speak French anymore. We have to study it in high school, yes, but there are more and more people who choose to learn English or Spanish,” says a young man who recently graduated. “France has marked our country with its language,” he adds. Morocco ceased to be a French protectorate more than 60 years ago, but its language still grants access to many jobs, including those for unskilled people, schools and public institutions.

Although 36% of the Moroccan population speaks French, according to the international organization La Francophonie, data published by the British Council in 2021 showed that 40% believe English should be a preferred language to learn in schools, compared to 10% who ranked the language first in Paris. Since 2019, about seven British schools have opened, including five American schools.

In early September 2023, the Minister of Education, Chakib Benmoussa, reiterated his commitment to strengthen the teaching of English, especially in secondary education, and with a projection towards 2025. However it is not only a matter of replacing the majority foreign language in the country, but also of safeguarding the national identity. “Morocco has a cultural and linguistic wealth that we must not lose,” says the young woman from Casablanca. Currently, the official languages ​​of the North African country are Arabic and Tamazi. The latter was included in 2003 after the establishment of the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture. “When a French tourist comes to speak to us, we answer in Arabic, even though we can do it in French as well,” she revealed.

A few days after Benmoussa’s announcement, France’s rejection of Morocco materialised again. First, following King Mohammed VI’s decision to refuse humanitarian aid from Paris after an earthquake in the Al Haouz region. In 2021, the Elysée denounced that Rabat had spied on its president, Emmanuel Macron, with the Pegasus programme. To which France reacted by reducing the visas issued to Moroccans and taking no stance on the recognition of Morocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara.

and, second, when the shaking of the earth was added to the tremors of social networks with the publication of a video by Macron, in which he directly addressed the Moroccan population, which was or was not affected by the September 2023 earthquake. Hashtags It spread across all social networks: “I am Moroccan and I reject Macron’s speech.”

History of French defeats in the South

France’s loss of influence has extended not just to Morocco, but also to other corners of the Maghreb and West Africa. Militarily, Operation Barkhane, meant to combat jihadism in several Sahel countries, was suspended following France’s ineffectiveness in ending terrorism. A failure that exacerbates growing anti-Galic sentiment by Russia, its potential rival in the region.

Banners were raised against France during successive coups between 2020 and 2022, including among high-ranking powers in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. The military coup plotters have severed diplomatic ties with Paris, and Mali, for example, has removed French as an official language, pushing the language of the former colonial power to the status of a “language for work”.

Other corners of the western region such as Senegal, as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as a whole, are also seeking to break the monetary control of France and its CFA franc. Although the regional plan was first presented in 2019, a new face in Senegalese politics, Bassirou Diomie Faye, wants to reclaim it.


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