Moroccan citizens registered in Spain totaled 869,661 people in May 2021, according to the National Institute of Statistics. Our neighbors to the south constitute the first foreign nationality in our country. In Ceuta and Melilla, almost half of the population is of Moroccan origin. In the North African squares there are many Spaniards who are the grandchildren or children of Moroccans. For that reason alone, the match between the two teams, which is played on Constitution Day, will be much more than a match.

Things have changed a lot since that first Morocco-Spain in an official match, back in 1961. A Spanish goal was disputed, annulled and then finally awarded by the referee. If this Tuesday, Spain and Morocco play for a place in the World Cup quarterfinals at Education City in Qatar, in November 1961 they crossed paths for a direct place in the World Cup in Chile.

To get to Chile 1962, the Spanish team had eliminated Wales (1-2 in Cardiff and 1-1 in Madrid), and that put them in the next round against Morocco, to play a double game for the World Cup ticket.

The chronicles of the time give an account of that November 12, 1961: more than 30,000 people packed the stands of the Casablanca stadium. The box was chaired by the princes Muley Abdullah y LI loved El-Sol. Ferenc Puskas played for our team, he played with the Spanish team. The legendary goalscorer for Real Madrid was Hungarian, born in Budapest, but he had become Spanish and at 34 he was still fighting on the pitch: 84 goals in 85 games accredited him. Spain won by suffering. Next to Puskas were figures of the stature of Gento, Zoco or Del Sol, author of the goal, headed and much discussed, which was reviewed by the Swiss referee.

The return in Chamartín was not a piece of cake either: La Roja (its name was different) took the lead twice, and Morocco tied twice. In the end the team won, 3-2. That night a boy named Marcelino made his debut for Spain, who scored. The same man who, years later, would be the hero in the 1964 Eurocopa, won by the Spanish team, which beat the Soviet Union 2-1 in the final. But that is another story.