Madrid ultras issue call to arms to ‘defend Spain’ from Moroccan riots ahead of World Cup knockout fixture

Riot police officers stand along a main boulevard in Brussels, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, as violence broke out during and after Morocco's 2-0 win over Belgium at the World Cup. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

The ultra gangs of Madrid’s two largest clubs have called on their associated members to help “defend Spain” in case the country experiences similar riots from pro-Moroccan fans witnessed across Belgium and the Netherlands last week.

Ultra Sur and Frente Atlético, the two die-hard fan groups of Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid, have urged supporters to take to the streets of the Spanish capital ahead of Tuesday’s FIFA World Cup knockout match, which will see Spain take on Morocco.

Foro M.D.M, the largest ultras forum in Spain, tweeted a call to arms on Sunday, calling on radical groups across the country to “join forces and prevent acts of vandalism by Morocco fans” and “protect the streets.”

The call appears to have been heeded by ultras of Real Betis, who have agreed to congregate in their city of Seville, as have ultras of Real Zaragoza and Valencia.

The vigilantism has not been explicitly condemned by authorities, but fans of both national teams have been urged to treat each other with respect, while Spain’s interior ministry has told the national police to put their riot units “on alert” for any public disorder.

The Deputy Operations Directorate (DAO) of the National Police said ahead of the fixture that “it is necessary to reserve for (Tuesday) afternoon, night, UIPs (riot control), UPRs (prevention and reaction), and to have specific devices planned.”

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Precautionary measures are necessary, the directorate added, “in view of the anticipation of celebrations that could lead to disturbances of public order, as has already happened in other countries.”

It is understood that areas where a high number of Moroccan nationals are registered will be prioritized for extra surveillance.

The Association of Moroccan Immigrants and Workers (ATIM), however, urged supporters of Morocco’s national team “not to respond to the threats and provocations made by radicals” but to instead report them to police.

Spain is home to a significant Moroccan population, with close to 900,000 people of Moroccan origin residing in the country, according to official data from 2021.

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The two nations have often clashed over immigration controls in the Spanish territories of Ceuta and Melilla, both of which share a land border with Morocco and are the only European land borders on the continent of Africa.

Tensions are high across Spain due to the scenes reported in both Belgium and the Netherlands last week, where some Moroccan supporters celebrating their victory over Belgium in the FIFA World Cup chose to resort to vandalism, burning vehicles, looting shops, and even attacking a police station.

Scenes of violence were witnessed in the Belgian cities of Brussels and Antwerp, and across the border in the Dutch cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague.

A dozen rioters were detained by authorities in Brussels, while eight were arrested in the port city of Antwerp. Two police officers were also hospitalized in Rotterdam.

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