MADRID – In some Spanish cities, the World Cup knockout match in the round of 16 between Morocco and Spain on Tuesday at 4.00 pm is seen as a high-risk match. Consequently, extra security forces have been deployed here and there. But how big exactly is the risk of riots in Spain?
After earlier wins by the Moroccan team during the qualifying rounds of the World Cup in Qatar, riots broke out in several Dutch and Belgian cities. This resulted in destruction, car fires and even injuries. In Spain, however, celebrations of Moroccan football wins have been peaceful so far. However, one of the two teams will lose and have to go home. The question is how that fact will be taken by the ‘Red Fury’ or the ‘Lions of the Atlas’ fans?
According to sports magazine Marca, the Policia Nacional have stated they have “prepared nothing specific”. And that, furthermore, “everything will depend on whether there will be riots and what the riots are like”. But police officers of various units have been alerted preventively, including the riot police (UIP).
Large Moroccan population in Spain
More than 870,000 Moroccans are registered in Spain. This is evident from INE‘s figures for 2021. Twenty years ago that was less than half. To this must be added a large number of unofficial Moroccans living in Spain.
The largest number of those registered Moroccans live in the province of Barcelona. With 134,000, that is 2.3% of the total population. After Barcelona, Murcia is the province with the most Moroccans (92,000). Then 77,000 Moroccans live in Madrid, 64,000 in Almería and 45,000 in Alicante. The proportion of Moroccans in the total population is highest in Almería at 8.7%. Police units will be extra alert in the provinces mentioned above.
The newspaper La Vanguardia writes that Barcelona has prepared several security forces and that many plainclothes officers will keep an eye on things in coordination with the local police. The Ministry of the Interior in Madrid and the regional ministry characterise the game as a ‘high-risk match’. Even though partying Moroccans have not caused any problems in Spain after the win over Belgium.
In Madrid, a special municipal police force of some 750 extra officers has already been deployed as part of a municipal campaign for the Christmas holidays. The municipal police in Madrid will be in preventive and constant contact with the national police (chief competent civil security) and if movements or concentrations of fans are observed, they will intervene.
Calls for peaceful celebrations
The Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities (FEERI), according to NIUS, has called on the Muslim population to ensure that expression of “joy or sadness” immediately after the game does not lead to “disturbance of the public order”.
The Association of Moroccan Migrant Workers has called on “the Moroccan community to watch the World Cup matches in a festive, sporting and respectful atmosphere” while also “not reacting to threats and provocations from extremists”.
The Moroccan embassy has issued a letter asking that, in case of victory, it be celebrated in moderation. In the south of the country, the Consulate General of the Kingdom of Morocco in Almería has asked citizens and members of the Moroccan community for “awareness” and “sportsmanship” ahead of the World Cup match.
Internal memo of the National Police
According to Matthew Bennett of The Spain Report, an internal memo from the National Police has been published by some media outlets, admitting that: “the only objective measure we have is the number of Moroccans officially registered in each of your regions.” They can only send reinforcements to places where there are generally more Moroccans.
Also read: FIFA World Cup Official Broadcasting rights