Morocco’s national carrier announced Wednesday that some special flights operated by its Qatari counterpart to Doha had been cancelled for fans seeking to watch the World Cup semi-final.
Morocco are the first African or Arab national team to reach this stage of a World Cup, beating giants Spain and Portugal on the way, and play France in Doha on Wednesday night.
Euphoric supporters have booked plane tickets from Casablanca to Doha, and many have already arrived, but without match tickets, which they have told AFP they were supposed to receive via the Moroccan football federation on arrival.
After Morocco qualified for the semi-final, the national carrier decided to organise 30 special flights on Tuesday and Wednesday between Casablanca and Doha.
But “following the latest restrictions imposed by the Qatari authorities, Royal Air Maroc (RAM) regrets to inform clients of the cancellation of their flights operated by Qatar Airways,” RAM said in a statement, without elaborating.
The cancelled flights impact “2,100 passengers,” a separate source, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP, adding that 23 other flights operated by RAM are still planned.
Videos posted on social media on Wednesday showed groups of Moroccan fans blocked by Qatari officials at Doha’s main Hamad International Airport, with supporters purportedly refusing to leave the airport until they received tickets.
“We decided to travel last night after RAM offered (plane) tickets at the symbolic price of 5,500 dirhams ($480),” said Amjad Larbi, 25, who had travelled to Doha without a match ticket.
Anas Kolfa, 31, arrived in Doha on Tuesday and said he was able to collect a sought-after ticket for free from Morocco’s football federation, which he said had bought tickets from FIFA.
But Mourad Louerad, 21, was unable to get a ticket.
“I flew because we were told that tickets were available at Doha airport,” he told AFP.
“We were promised in Morocco that they would be distributed at the airport to people arriving on RAM flights,” he said.
“Afterwards, we were asked to go to the Al Janoub stadium but we found nothing.”
– ‘Friends & acquaintances’ –
According to another supporter, Amine Farid, a 31-year-old computer scientist, “the big problem is the black market…(where) tickets are sold at four or five times their price”.
Others decried the patronage and favouritism of federation officials, who one fan said “give tickets to their friends and acquaintances”.
It was not immediately possible to reach Morroco’s football authorities.
On December 2, Qatari authorities dropped a previous requirement that arrivals in the country present a match ticket upon entry.
But a message posted by Hamad International Airport on Wednesday morning urged supporters “not to go to the two airports (of Doha) until they have obtained tickets for the upcoming matches”.
“We remind supporters that Hamad International Airport in Doha is not the official site for obtaining tickets for World Cup matches,” the message added.