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If you think Morocco’s fans emoted, you should’ve seen the news conference

Morocco's Hakim Ziyech and Romain Saïss celebrate Tuesday. (Dylan Martinez/Reuters)

RAYYAN, Qatar — Three different reporters got the microphone at various times and said they didn’t really have any questions, then warbled on with thanks and praise and pretty much euphoria. One said he spoke through tears. Another said it had been his birthday and thanked the manager on behalf of his family as well as all Moroccans. Another told the goalkeeper, “You have proven that you are a lion and you roared.”

Tuesday’s news conference after Morocco upended Spain to reach its first World Cup quarterfinal was not only an exploration of the different news conference mores of different cultures but also an emblem of the power of positive penalty kicks.

Damn, they’re powerful.

If the booming Moroccan crowd had not conveyed what rapture a goalkeeper could give humanity by stopping three penalty kicks, as Yassine Bounou did dramatically against Spain, then further help came from the plush lecture hall with the incline of seats, the raft of TV cameras and the reporters with ear buds connecting to their interpretation apps.

There, emotion overran convention.

Just after Spain Manager Luis Enrique wrapped up his session with gracious remarks about the Moroccan team and crowd, in walked Walid Regragui, the 47-year-old former Moroccan defender and the Moroccan manager only since Aug. 31. Until then, Regragui had been managing Wydad AC in Casablanca. Some called him unseasoned for this.

Morocco fans filled the streets of Doha, Qatar, with cheers and flares after their World Cup victory over Spain on Dec. 6. (Video: Reuters)

Now some applauded his very entry, a no-no in certain cultures but unstoppable after what occurred here at Education City Stadium. As Regragui spoke, in walked Bounou, known as Bono, causing another wave of applause as he sat next to Regragui. It was the emotion of an enchanting land with passionate sports habits, and it called to mind when great runner Hicham El Guerrouj faded to a silver medal at the 1,500 meters during the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the first question, translated in everyone’s earphones, went: “How does it feel to let down 30 million Moroccans?”

They’re about 37 million by now, and as most of them began a place-to-be kind of night from Marrakesh to Casablanca to Tangier to Fez, some of them began by complimenting the manager and the goalkeeper.

“You have made us very happy,” one media member began toward Bono, soon adding the part about the “lion” who “roared.”

“I don’t have any question,” another soon began, also to Bono. “I would like to thank you. . . . You have gained the trust of the new Moroccan generation. . . . I am speaking, and I have tears in my eyes.”

That had figured to be the last question to Bono, but the moderator chimed in. “As that was not a question,” she said. “Let’s go over here with a final question for him.” A journalist from São Paulo asked about penalties.

Soon went the Los Angeles Times, and then the room went back to Morocco, with this to Regragui: “I have a message for you. My family, all of the Moroccans tonight, just want to thank you and congratulate you for what you have achieved.” Then he said it had been his birthday and added, “Just let us keep dreaming.”

Near the end, a Moroccan reporter asked Regragui, who grew up in France with Moroccan parents, “What did you think when the king called?” That referred to Mohammed VI, Morocco’s monarch since 1999, who had congratulated Regragui between the penalty kicks and the news conference. “It’s extraordinary,” said the new manager who has gone further than any predecessor, “for a Moroccan to receive that call.”

World Cup in Qatar

World champions: Argentina has won the World Cup, defeating France in penalty kicks in a thrilling final in Lusail, Qatar, for its first world championship since 1986. Argentina was led by global soccer star Lionel Messi in what is expected to be his final World Cup appearance. France was bidding to become the first repeat champion since Brazil won consecutive trophies in 1958 and 1962.

Today’s WorldView: In the minds of many critics, especially in the West, Qatar’s World Cup will always be a tournament shrouded in controversy. But Qatar’s foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, wants people to take another view.

Perspective: “America is not a men’s soccer laughingstock right now. It’s onto something, and it’s more attuned to what’s working for the rest of the world rather than stubbornly forcing an American sports culture — without the benefit of best-of-the-best talent — into international competition.” Read Jerry Brewer on the U.S. men’s national team’s future.

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