Doha, Qatar – Morocco’s unprecedented success at the World Cup has given shopkeepers in Doha’s Souq Waqif a welcome headache.
North African team replica jerseys have sold out and there is a growing demand for more.
In the days leading up to the tournament, the shops lining the narrow streets of the city’s famous market changed their displays from everyday Arab clothing and accessories to colorful shirts, scarves and flags of the countries taking part in the World Cup.
Argentina, Brazil and hosts Qatar were the most popular teams among football fans who crowded the tourist hub in the first few weeks of the World Cup.
Now Morocco, who face France in the World Cup semifinals on Wednesday night, have left all other teams behind.
“Each day in November we sold a handful of Morocco jerseys out of the dozens we had ordered,” shopkeeper Muhammad Sadiq told Al Jazeera, hours after Morocco defeated Portugal to become the first African and first Arab semi-finalist in the history of the club to become a tournament.
As Morocco began to accumulate points in the group stage, demand for the team’s kit and merchandise skyrocketed. Demand increased even further after the Atlas Lions defeated Spain and Portugal in the knockout rounds.
“Every time Morocco won, we would order hundreds more [shirts] and be sold out by the afternoon of the next matchday,” Sadiq said.
Since the team qualified for the semi-finals, thousands of fans have flown to Doha from different parts of the world. On arrival in Doha, their first stop is Souq Waqif, and the first item on their shopping list is either a Moroccan shirt or a flag, and in some cases both.
Anas El Karim flew in from Berlin the day after Morocco defeated Portugal.
“I was told I could find my team’s jersey here, but it appears to be sold out,” he said with a disappointed look.
Sadiq, who had been rummaging through a stack of team shirts while his newest customer looked on, pulled one out, to El Karim’s delight.
There are also many Doha-based fans who have started supporting Morocco after undertaking giant killings in the final stages of the tournament.
“I wasn’t a Morocco fan until I saw how they beat the big European teams,” said Yousuf Ahmed, a football fan from India, while browsing Sadiq’s store for a Morocco jersey. “I’ve been looking for her shirt for days but every time I come here it’s sold out so I’ll settle for a flag for now.”
The bright red flag with a green star in the middle has been adopted by the host country. Fans from across the Arab world wear and wave it proudly in stadiums and fan zones. It’s draped over skyscrapers, hung from apartment balconies and waved by cars honking their horns at every Moroccan victory.
It is safe to say that the Moroccan flag now ranks second to the Palestinian flag in Qatar.
“Even Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Indians come and ask for Morocco’s flag,” said Sharf-ud-Din, a Nepalese shopkeeper who has supplemented his clothing store with World Cup paraphernalia.
When local shopkeepers realized they would not be able to source enough flags to meet the high demand in a timely manner, they devised a quick fix: manufacturing the flags in Qatar.
“A group of Bangladeshi and Pakistani men got red strips of fabric from a local market and made these flags at home,” Din said, pointing to a handmade Moroccan flag that hung alongside the flags of Qatar and Palestine.
“They made a real mess with the green pentagram, but the buyers don’t care,” he said with a grin.
Sadiq, who started selling the Moroccan shirt for 30 riyals ($8) apiece, said he now sells lower-quality shirts for at least 50 riyals ($14).
“Our suppliers have told us they run out of shirts in Bangladesh or China, so we’ll make the best of the few dozen we have left,” he said matter-of-factly.
Stores have been doing well for the past few weeks and are now looking to make the most of the last remaining days before the football frenzy gives way to regular business.
If Morocco beat France in the semifinals, Sadiq will have to find a solution to meet the demands of even more Moroccan fans who will paint the country red.