By Naoufel Cherkaoui in Rabat for Magharebia – 23/12/2013
Botola champions Raja Casablanca lost to Bayern Munich 2-0 in the FIFA Club World Cup final played Saturday (December 21st) in Marrakech.
Despite the Green Eagles' defeat by the UEFA champions, they were widely hailed for bringing honour to Moroccan football.
King Mohammed VI, who attended the match, said RCA displayed "great football skills and tremendous technical performance against the strongest clubs in the world, to the enjoyment of sports fans in the country, the Arab states, and the world".
"They gave national sport its best representation… restoring its unrivalled glamour, reputation, and glory," the monarch added.
Raja coach Faouzi Benzarti agreed that they were "a role model on the Arab and African level".
Raja in 2000 became the first African and Arab team to participate in the FIFA Club World Cup.
"We were unfortunately defeated by a strong team," Benzarti said. He noted, however, that his squad had an extra burden heading into the final against the Germans.
"The exhaustion factor worked against us, since Raja played four matches in this tournament, while Bayern only played two," the coach said. "This is unacceptable; I think FIFA must change this system."
The issue was also raised by the sporting press. The BBC pointed out that while Raja had to face Auckland City, Monterrey and Ronaldinho's Atletico Mineiro, Bayern Munich "only had to beat Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande to book their place".
For the players, getting to the final was a victory. "We entered this tournament for all Moroccans, not only for our team's fans," Raja defender Issam Erraki said.
The public got his message.
"You have turned all Moroccans into Raja supporters and we all hold you in high regard," Khalid said online.
It is not just Moroccans hailing the team's performance. Algerian football fan Wael said: "Thank you, Raja, for gaining respect for Maghreb and Arab football, you come out holding your heads high."
"There are big European clubs that have lost to Bayern with high scores, but you fought on the pitch. Raja has really become one of my favourite clubs now," the Algerian posted online.
Raja started their 2013 FIFA Club World Championship run with a 2-1 win over OFC Champions League winners Auckland City. They beat CONCACAF champions Monterrey of Mexico by the same score in the quarter-finals before ousting Brazil's Atlético Mineiro 3-1 in the semis.