Morocco’s goalkeeper at the World Cup: Bono’s gift of joy

EThere had already been much applause, some passionate homage paid, and even the king had been mentioned with great respect when another of the Moroccan journalists spoke. He wanted to speak in English, he said, so the whole world could hear and understand what he had to say.

Then he turned to the two men on the podium: “I have no question,” he said. “I just want to say thank you.” And from then on he declaimed more than he spoke: “You have achieved something unprecedented in the history of Moroccan football, 40 million Moroccans are happy! Thank you, thank you for that! I stand here with tears in my eyes because you made Moroccan history!”

In the formal procedure of the press conference of this World Cup round of 16 between Morocco and Spain that was the second of two allowed questions for the player of the match, goalkeeper Bono, but as the FIFA staffer noted on the podium: “Since that wasn’t a question – one more please.”

Smile instead of poker face

And so Bono could also be asked quite conventionally how he did on penalties, when he saved two of Spain’s three shots and might have caught the third if it hadn’t hit the post anyway. “A little bit of feeling, a little bit of luck”, that’s it, he wasn’t particularly talkative anyway, but his trainer next to him had already said twice that he had to take it easy.

Achraf Hakimi had set the final point, with a cheeky penalty chipped in the middle, which had so much backspin that it rapidly spun backwards in flight. But the man whose real name is Yassine Bounou, on whose shirt also at the FC Seville only “Bono” is written, was the one of 40 million Moroccans who owned this evening the most. This was solely due to the dramaturgy of this game, in which two principles of football met in their most extreme form, the dominance and control model of the Spanish type and the universal outsider principle.

But also the fact that Bono gave a very special face to this duel by hook or by crook in the Education City Stadium, which seemed to be in Marrakech or Casablanca rather than in ar-Rayyan that evening. A smile that he wore until the penalty shoot-out, where otherwise the grim expression of determination, the poker face and sometimes, one thinks at least, a touch of foreboding emptiness determine the picture.

Gesture of familiarity: Morocco's goalkeeper Bono (right) and his Spanish colleague Unai Simon before the penalty shoot-out

Gesture of familiarity: Morocco’s goalkeeper Bono (right) and his Spanish colleague Unai Simon before the penalty shoot-out

Image: dpa

Before the penalty shootout he had strolled arm in arm towards the corner flag with his Spanish colleague Unai Simón, like two old friends going home after a special night, a special picture of this World Cup, but it wasn’t over yet, and then floated practically through these final minutes, so that in the end you could say that Morocco is not only playing the most passionate, dogged, self-sacrificing, but also the happiest outsider football of this World Cup. Bono said he wanted to give this game to all Moroccans as a “gift of joy”.

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