Morocco's women’s national football team’s recent milestone sparked controversy after a Moroccan preacher claimed their success invoked God’s wrath and led to natural disasters.
On July 23, Morocco’s football team reached the Africa Cup of Nations Women’s Football finals after a 5-4 penalty shootout victory over the Nigeria team. It was a real milestone in Arab women’s football as it has been 22 years since their last participation.
Morocco has not appeared in any of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations since 2000 for their failure to qualify for the tournament, and their win was such a breakthrough for their comeback. The victory not only gave them an opportunity at the World Cup but also caught everyone with a surprise as they defeated Nigeria, the defending champion.
Nigerians have won 11 out of 14 in the Africa Cup of Nations women’s finals, losing only three times since it was first staged in 1991. Spectators even predicted that Nigeria and South Africa were bound to meet in the finals.
Nigeria took the lead in the 62nd minute of the game owing to a goal by Yassin Mrabet, but Morocco managed to turn it around. As the host of this year’s tournament, the game had record attendance.
Morocco’s women’s national team lost to South Africa on July 23, but the country still had much to celebrate.
However, while the country celebrated, preacher Hamza Elkhaldi condemned their success. He claimed their wins invoked God’s wrath because women’s football matches are “undoubtedly forbidden” because their sports attire is “impermissible” for Muslim women.
The preacher pointed out that watching and broadcasting women’s football matches, as well as Morocco’s hosting of the tournament, was a huge sin and was subject to undesirable consequences.
He remarked on Facebook that “everyone who watches women's matches is without a doubt a sinner" and that they should repent to Allah for the great scandal.
He further claimed that the women’s success invoked natural disasters such as wildfires that just happened this month, destroying thousands of land in the country.
Thousands of families in Larache, northern Morocco, lost their homes, fields, and livelihoods as wildfires swept 6,600 hectares of the remote mountains.
On Wednesday, July 27, Moroccan firefighters advanced their efforts to control the fires inflamed by fierce winds burning across the country's northern part. They have deployed trucks, bulldozers, and water-dumping planes to contain the fire.
According to sources, three Canadair firefighting aircraft did 25 runs over the day, while over 1000 families from various villages were evacuated.
It has been reported that the country has been suffering from a heatwave with scorching temperatures, soaring to 48C (118F). Scientists say that extreme heatwaves and drought, which cause wildfires, are due to climate change and are expected to continue and become even more intense in the future.