The hopes of millions of Arabs and Africans across the world were dashed on Wednesday night after France beat Morocco with a 2-0 victory in a closely watched World Cup semifinal.
The team, which was viewed by many as the rising underdog, had already exceeded expectations by reaching the semifinals at Qatar 2022, by beating Spain, Belgium, Canada, and Portugal. However, the country's magical run in the tournament ended on Wednesday night, bringing an end to the possibility that it would be the first Arab or African team to reach the final.
Despite the obvious disappointment, fans remained elated, soaking in what they had achieved so far in the tournament. In Belgium, the usual joyous sounds of cars honking and crowds gathering on the streets to dance and cheer, which for many — even non-supporters — had brought an atmosphere of triumph to the capital, were missing on Wednesday night.
Incidents following loss
Some incidents broke out in Brussels once the match had finished. As has been the case in the past, a heavy police presence was put in place before the game, stationed near Lemonnier and Brussels South. Concerned members of the Moroccan community once again created a "human chain" of people in green vests to avoid tensions rising.
"Immediately after the game, we preventively closed the Allée du Sud and Boulevard Poincaré as well as the Porte de Halle tunnel towards the South," Police Spokesperson Ilse Van de Keere told Belga News Agency.
"After the game, the order was disturbed in several places, with pyrotechnic material. Our services closed in a group of 120 people at Midi/Lemonnier in order to avoid a game of cat and mouse."
Some young people clashed with police who used water cannons and tear gas. Some 100 people were detained for disturbance of the peace, of whom four were arrested for the deliberate destruction of two police vehicles and the private possession of fireworks, which is illegal in Belgium.
The police have in the past admitted that, in some cases, police officers were cracking down too heavily on the fans due to racial biases. This was mirrored in the case of a journalist named Yassin Akouh, who during previous celebrations which resulted in some incidents breaking out on the fringes, was attacked by the police despite repeatedly identifying as a journalist reporting on the incidents.
On Wednesday night, he once again told police officers he was merely carrying out his job, and was not taking part in the "disturbance of peace," but was still detained by the police.
Tweet translation: "I was detained today. I am writing this from a police cell. I identified myself as a journalist several times, but this was not heeded."
Antwerp and Montpellier
In Antwerp, tensions began to rise between small groups of young people and police officers. Rioters threw fireworks at police, after which police responded with a water cannon, which damaged a bus shelter. A total of 85 people were detained, according to the latest police update. By midnight, the streets were quiet again in the Flemish city.
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Meanwhile, in the French city of Montpellier, a 14-year-old boy was killed in Montpellier during a hit-and-run amid similar incidents.
The boy was taken to hospital but died from his injuries. The vehicle was found abandoned not far from the scene of the incident. Police have launched an urgent investigation.