Flares and Fights

Ittihad Riadi Tanger Soccer Game

Our bus zigzagged in and out of traffic, as we sped toward the game like we were some sort of VIP deserving of special treatment. There were two police motorcyclists assigned to each bus, stopping traffic and making cars move out of the way so we could squeeze through and make our way to the arena.

When we stepped into the arena, which had been so empty on our first day in Tangier, I could feel the emotions running high. People roared for the players who had yet to make their way onto the field. I looked around, seeing every possible seat filled. With the excitement of the crowd radiated through me, a smile spread across my face. It was the semi-finals match, and if Tangier won we would be making our way to the Sahara in a couple of weekends.

Ushers escorted us to our seats, the best in the house in the front of the arena.

GOAL! It was 1-0 with Tangier ahead, and all I could see were red flares erupting all around me. It was almost as though the stadium were on fire. People shot fared onto the track around the field, and firefighters worked quickly to put out a small fire on the ground. People around me were yelling and cheering, with tears streaming down their cheeks.

Things turned even crazier. People began leaving the stands, running toward the field only to be tackled by security guards and either carried out in the security men’s arms or on stretchers.

What looked like hundreds of guards poured out onto the other team’s fans, and more and more people ended up on stretchers.

In awe at the spectacle, I was pulled between watching the game and following the rioting fans. Fights broke out all around us; and then out of nowhere there was another goal, this time not in our favor.

This time, the stands around me shook in anger. Fists were flying. I watched as security men began forming a barrier around us, before rushing us out of the stands, back onto the track, and in the direction of the arena’s exit.

With the game tied with less than 10 minutes left, it looked as though the other team would be heading to the finals.

We ducked down the stairs of the arena, just as water bottles, flares, whistles, and everything that could possibly be thrown ended up on the field. People panicked as they tried to rush up to our buses and escape with us before fans became even more berserk.

Although I was a disappointed our team did not come out on top, the feeling of excitement of the hubbub has stayed with me. It was a privilege to witness the flares and fights of Tangier.

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