Doha, Qatar – Morocco’s unprecedented success at the World Cup has caused headaches for shopkeepers in Doha’s Souq Waqif.
The North African team replica shirts are sold out and there is a growing demand for more.
In the days leading up to the tournament, the shops lining the narrow alleyways of the iconic market in the city center changed their displays from everyday Arab clothing and accessories to colorful T-shirts, scarves and flags of the countries playing in the Cup of the world.
Argentina, Brazil and hosts Qatar were the most popular teams with football fans who flocked to the tourist center in the opening weeks of the World Cup.
Now, Morocco – who face France in the World Cup semi-final on Wednesday night – have left all other sides in their wake.
“In November, we were selling a handful of Morocco T-shirts every day from the dozens we ordered,” shopkeeper Muhammad Sadiq told Al Jazeera just hours after Morocco beat Portugal to become the first African and first Arab semi-finalists in history of the tournament.
As Morocco started racking up points in the group stage, demand for the team’s kit and merchandise skyrocketed. Demand increased even more after the Atlas Lions beat Spain and Portugal in the knockout stages.
“Every time Morocco won, we ordered hundreds more [shirts] and sold out by mid-afternoon on the day of the next match” Sadiq said.
Since the team qualified for the semi-finals, thousands of fans have flown to Doha from various parts of the world. Upon arriving in Doha, their first stop is Souq Waqif, and the first item on their shopping list is a Morocco T-shirt, or a flag, and in some cases, both.
Anas El Karim arrived from Berlin the day after Morocco’s victory over Portugal.
“I was told I could find my team shirt here, but it appears to have been sold out,” he said with a look of disappointment.
Sadiq, who was digging through a pile of team shirts in full view of his new client, pulled one out to El Karim’s delight.
There are also many Doha fans who have started supporting Morocco after the killing spree in the latter stages of the tournament.
“I wasn’t a fan of Morocco until I saw them beat big European teams,” said Yousuf Ahmed, an Indian football fan, as he browsed Sadiq’s shop for a Morocco shirt. I’ve been looking for their shirt for days now but every time I come here it’s sold out, so now I’ll settle for a flag.”
The bright red flag with a green star in the center conquered the host country. Fans across the Arab world carry and wave it proudly in stadiums and fan zones. He is draped over skyscrapers, hung from apartment balconies and fanned by cars that honk their horns after every Moroccan victory.
It’s safe to say that the Moroccan flag is now second in popularity only to the Palestinian flag in all of Qatar.
“Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Indians also come asking for the Moroccan flag,” said Sharf-ud-Din, a Nepalese shopkeeper who has added World Cup accessories to his clothing store.
When local shop owners realized they wouldn’t be able to source enough flags to meet the high demand in time, they came up with a quick fix: make the flags in Qatar.
“A group of Bangladeshi and Pakistani men took sheets of red cloth from a local market and made these flags at home,” Din said, pointing to a hand-made Moroccan flag hanging next to the Qatari and Palestinian flags. .
“They made a real mess of the green pentagram, but the buyers don’t care,” she said with a chuckle.
Sadiq, who started selling Morocco’s jersey at 30 riyals ($8) apiece, said he now sells lower-quality shirts for as little as 50 riyals ($14).
“Our suppliers have told us they have no more T-shirts in Bangladesh or China, so we’re going to make the most of the few dozen we have left,” he said matter-of-factly.
The shops have enjoyed great deals over the last few weeks and are now ready to make the most of the last few days left before the football frenzy gives way to regular business.
Should Morocco beat France in the semi-final, Sadiq will have to find a solution to meet the demands of even more Moroccan fans who will turn the country red.