Morocco footballer Bilal El Khannouss waves Palestinian flag following U-23 Africa Cup of Nations victory

Morocco footballer Bilal El Khannouss waves Palestinian flag following U-23 Africa Cup of Nations victory
Morocco U-23 player El Khannouss has been praised by fans and activists after he waved the Palestinian flag following the Atlas Lions' victory.
3 min read
11 July, 2023
Bilal El Khannouss, who plays for Morocco's U-23 team, waved the Palestinian flag following his team's victory against Egypt [Getty]

Moroccan football player Bilal El Khannouss was seen waving the Palestinian national flag following the Atlas Lions' victory in the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations final over Egypt on Saturday, winning praise for pro-Palestine supporters.

El Khannouss adorned himself with the flag as he celebrated the U-23 Moroccan national team's first-ever Africa Cup of Nations trophy in the capital Rabat’s Moulay Abdellah stadium.

Footage was widely shared online, with activists and football fans praising El Khannouss’ show of solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

One user, Naeima, said: "And there is no victory without Palestine… in our hearts. Thank you Bilal El Khannouss."

Another user, named Abdellah, added: "And Palestine remains the cause of every noble and free Moroccan."

ولاتتويج دون فلسطين ..في قلوبنا 🇵🇸❤
شكرا بلال الخنوس 🇲🇦

— 𝐍aeima. (@_88NAll) July 9, 2023

The U-23 Atlas Lions clinched a 2-1 victory in a thrilling final against 10-man Egypt, which saw Morocco's Oussama Targhalline score the wining goal in extra time.

Defender Mahmoud Saber Abdelmohsen Hassan clawed back one goal for Egypt while and Morocco forward Yanis Begraoui bagged a second for Morocco.

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The victory marks U-23 Morocco’s first-ever title in the competition, which first began in 2011. The Atlas Lions’ victory has also ranked them among the competition’s best-ever performers.

This year's tournament also saw Morocco play hosts for the second time.

Despite Morocco’s controversial normalisation with Israel in 2020 - which was widely condemned by much of the Arab world and Palestinians - Moroccan activists, football fans and players alike have expressed solidarity with Palestine on a number of occasions.

During the FIFA World Cup in Qatar last year, players from the Moroccan national team went viral for parading Palestinian flags in the Gulf country following a stunning run in the tournament.

The players and fans' continued stand with Palestine prompted discomfort from Israeli officials, who demanded an explanation from their Moroccan counterparts.

Eyal David, deputy chief of the mission of Israel in Morocco, said that officials in Rabat stated that the waving of the Palestinian flag "does not" represent the will of King Mohammed VI.

Solidarity with the Palestinian cause is deeply rooted in Moroccan football culture, as many pro-Palestinian chants sung by Moroccan Ultras have rocked stadiums in the North African kingdom for years.