RABAT, Morocco (AP)Many soccer fans around the world have been surprised by Morocco’s success at the World Cup in Qatar, where it became the first African and Arab country to make it to the semifinals of the tournament.

But the North African country has long had a deep passion for soccer. Young boys can be seen playing the game on the streets or on dusty fields, from the snowy foothills of the Atlas Mountains to the medina of Marrakech.

Local club teams such as Casablanca’s Wydad AC, Raja CA and Rabat’s AS FAR have die-hard fans known for vibrant chants and colorful choreographies.

Morocco coach Walid Regragui has become a national hero following the team’s impressive World Cup run. Before taking over the national team, he led Wydad AC to victory in this year’s African Champion’s League.

Morocco’s 1-0 victory over Portugal in the World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday sparked nationwide celebreations, with car horns sounding through the night in Casablanca, and residents thronging the streets of the capital, Rabat. Morocco next faces defending World Cup champion France on Wednesday in the semifinals.

AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports