Casablanca: Ultra culture and beach football
Our Moroccan photos come from Casablanca and Abderrahim Bourkia, a journalist and social scientist. His research covers Moroccan football fans, Ultras and comparisons with Maghrebian (Tunisia, Algeria, Libya) and European football fans. A fan of famous Moroccan club Raja Casablanca and a keen player himself, Abderrahim’s photos focused on beach football and Ultra culture in Casablanca.
What did you try to show with the photos?
My photos were taken in Casablanca on Sindibad beach, in the Hay Hassani popular market and in the Mohamed V Stadium. At the beach and also in the streets we can find girls playing football with boys. On every inch of the beach there is a game – the beach is the best place to find a match. In one photo we see the legs and socks of my friend "Karim" – we often play without shoes. He is 38 years old and he is like everybody else - football is his passion. He is a Raja Casablanca fan. He plays football on the beach every weekend and has done that since he was young. Even after working for 15 years and having three kids he does not change. The passion for football is still there. If his friends are here, he goes with them to the beach. If not, he doesn't care and makes his way to the beach to play football. There are many people like him.
What are the red and green signs and artwork? Why are they important?
In Casablanca and Morocco football is a huge part of the popular culture. Two of the most popular teams in Morocco are Raja Club Athletic (RCA), known as Raja Casablanca and playing in green, and the Wydad Atletic Club (WAC), who play in red. Both are from Casablanca. In the second division there are other teams but the hearts of the fans also go to Raja and Wydad.
These signs and artwork are Ultra fan tags on buildings in Hay Hassani, the popular market in Casablanca. The red artwork is from Wydad Ultras and says “Our dreams are a part of our history”. The green artwork comes from the Curva Sud Casablanca Ultras, who are Raja fans. We find these signs and artworks in every neighborhood. They show the inter-group dynamics and social identity articulated by the supporters.
What role does football play in Moroccan society?
As shown at the Mohamed V stadium Casablanca, the two teams on the pitch are always in confrontation and so are the fans. The supporters shout injustice and curse their fate with the goals scored. The spectators distinguish between “they” and “we”, “us” and “them”. The stadium becomes a space of symbolic social struggle. Each group seeks to dominate the other. We can say that the supporters are in osmosis with the players on the lawn. Each group runs in an opposite purpose. We are in front of two rival identities. Football offers the fans an opportunity to express themselves. They move the action from the field towards the stands.
The passion continues in daily life in the streets, homes and neighborhoods. The tags, artwork and sign of devotion to the two teams are everywhere. Football allows people to express themselves. Most young people choose to be in an Ultras or supporters group and not in a political party or association. In Morocco football is more than a game for the masses. People live and breathe football and it forms a big part of Moroccan identity.
Why is football so important for Morocco and Moroccans?
Football brings people together but there is also violence from some Ultras. The Stadium attracts fans and people who want to enjoy football, but also criminals and violent people looking for fights.
For me, as for most people, football is a part of life. I study sociology in order to observe the role of football in my society. It is our passion, we watch the matches of our favourite teams and we play a lot. I used to play with my neighbours in the street and still play. When there is a game you can never find a place in a café. The passion for Raja and Wydad of Casablanca also extends to the Moroccan national team and of course for Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Do men and women often play football together?
Women do not take part in sport as much as men. Also women are limited in the type of sport they play, although there is a football championship and national cup. In Morocco women footballers say that some members of their family and neighborhood still judge them. Some say they are masculine women. Others claim that it is "haram” - forbidden according to their interpretation of Islamic law. However, Islam allows women to participate in sport. A healthy body and mind in Islam is a gift from God - there are “duties that you owe to yourself and rights your body and your mind have upon you”. Islam allows women to exercise and to play sport.