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Monthly Archives: December 2022

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Morocco, the story of the tournament

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Despite Morocco‘s defeat in the World Cup semi-finals against formidable France, the North African nation, as an underdog, scripted history not only for the African and Arab world, but also for the entire world.

In 1977, when only three African nations were permitted to qualify for the World Cup, soccer legend Pele predicted: “An African nation will win the World Cup before the year 2000.”

However, by the end of 2010 World Cup in South Africa, only three African nations had reached the quarter-finals: Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010. In the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Algeria was the only African country to qualify for the group stages. They lost to Germany in the round of 16. In 2018, no African nation could reach the knockout stages of the World Cup in Russia.

TV grab of the semi-finals match, France vs Morocco

Morocco’s advancement to the semi-finals in this World Cup took them one step closer to making Pele’s prediction a reality, though years later.

The 2022 World Cup has been a tournament of underdogs and iconic upsets with Saudi Arabia defeating the mighty Argentina, Japan triumphing over Germany, Korea winning over Portugal and Tunisia defeating formidable France. Also, football giants like Spain, Belgium and Denmark tasted defeat at the hands of African and Asian teams.

It’s worth noting the heroics of Morocco especially after the country defeated Spain, one of the only eight countries to have ever won the trophy and Portugal, which is ninth in FIFA’s ranking of the national teams.

National anthems of the two teams being played before the match

Morocco will forever be remembered for their fearless zeal, passion, skill, team effort and relentless fight. Notwithstanding Messsi, Neymer, Ronaldo and Mbappe, fans won’t forget Youssef-en- Nesyri whose fine header against Portugal secured Morocco a spot in the semi-finals, manager Walid Regragui without whose cool, intelligent leadership none of this would have been possible, Hakim Ziyech, Sofiane Boufal, Yassine Bounou, and Achraf Hakimi.

Morocco may have failed to reach the finals, but it has touched the hearts of milions of fans not only in Africa and the Arab world, but across continents. The defeat to France can’t take away for a moment the impact Morocco’s advancement to the semi-finals has had on its country, its people and anyone, who has ever felt like the underdog.

Even though the tournament isn’t over yet, there’s no denying Morocco is the ‘Story of the Tournament’.




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In front of bison at Betla

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The day dawned. We got out of bed at 5.30am for the safari at the Betla National Park, located in the Chotanagpur plateau of the Latehar district in Jharkhand. It was cold with temperature hovering around 14 degrees Celsius. The Park’s entrance gate was very near to Banvihar (a Jharkhand Tourism property) where we had checked in the previous day. Warmth of the guy at the ticket (Rs 1,200) counter touched us. We’re given a Commander jeep and a young and energetic driver. Going on a safari with an expert guide makes the experience mind-blowing and we’re fortunate enough to get a knowledgeable guide.

The author with cousin at the entrance of the Park

There were no other tourists in the jeep. The gate opened and the jeep made its way into the forest. With the rays of the early-morning sun caressing the trees, we were transported to another world. I could see tree leaves covered with dew drops. “Keep a close look at either side of the road,” said our guide. “If you’re lucky, you may spot bison, leopard or elephant.”

Two years ago, the guide reminisced, a tigress was killed by a group of bison. “Since then tigers at Betla disappeared,” he added. As the jeep moved ahead slowly along the meandering roads, we came across the site where the tigress was killed. “The autopsy showed the tigress was carrying three cubs,” the guide rued, pointing to the site.

“Shhh,” the guide muttered. “Look at the bison.” We could see as many as four bison in the dense forest not far from us. One of them was feeding her baby. “Don’t get off the jeep,” the driver said. “I’ll be in trouble. There are several cameras kept hidden among the branches of the trees.” We snapped photos of the bison from the jeep.

The sun rose as a canopy of gold, bright amid the blue bidding the stars to take their nightly rest.  I was reminded of the lines: “The early morning is the dominion of birds, for they in bright feathered plume, are so very in love with the sunrise.” We’re captivated by the sweet chirp of birds as the jeep moved deep into the forest. Beatles’ Norwegian Wood crossed my mind.

We saw peacocks and a herd of deer frolicking in the forest. “If you visit the park in April or May, you can see leopards here,” the guide said. The safari was just for one hour. “If you’d like to spend more time in the forest, you’ve to come out of the forest and buy another ticket for one more hour,” the driver said.

The safari began at 6am and got over at 7am.

Want to have a real feel of the forest? You may stay at Tree House inside the forest. The booking may be made from DFO office, Daltonganj, now known as Medininagar. Tel: 995552731/6562222454

We bid adieu to bewitching Betla and headed for Ranchi on our way back to Kolkata. The trip was a true broadening of the horizon for me, an education for the mind and a rejuvenation of the soul.


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