World Cup: Why Morocco is shortened to MAR in your TV scoreline

Qatar's migrant workers watch the Qatar 2022 World Cup round of 16 football match between Morocco and Spain with Spains head coach Luis Enrique on the video screen on December 6, 2022, at the Asian Town cricket stadium, on the outskirts of Doha. - The stadium has become a daily draw for thousands of the poorest workers who live in nearby dormitories away from Doha's glitzy shopping malls and restaurants. (Photo by INA FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)
Countries have different abbreviation codes when it comes to the World Cup. (Getty Images)

For the casual football fan, a World Cup with up to four matches a day can leave a host of questions left unaddressed before the next big match comes along and we all get swept up in the action.

Why have there been so many shocks? How on earth could Argentina lose to Saudi Arabia? Just how fast is Mbappe exactly?

But perhaps one of the less talked-about oddities that has had some fans scratching their heads is - what determines the three-letter country code that makes up the scoreline on our TV screens?

That quandary may well be asked again on Saturday afternoon when Morocco play Portugal in their World Cup quarter-final on ITV.

While the broadcaster has listed the North African side as MAR on its graphics, the BBC has previously plumped for MOR.

So just who decides these codes?

Morocco's players celebrate head coach Walid Regragui after the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Morocco and Spain, at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Morocco's victory over Spain has raised the question of country codes for the Qatar World Cup (AP)

There have been other three-letter codes which differ from the first three letters of some competing nations in Doha; namely Saudi Arabia, which has KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).

But conversations on codes continued in earnest after Morocco upended Spain (ESP) to reach the last eight in one of the tournament’s big shocks.

Let’s abbreviate for one moment. As far as anglicisation goes, some believe that MAR should be MOR - as the BBC has clearly decided upon - and ESP termed as SPA. ITV hasn't agreed, it seems.

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As commentator and journalist Ned Boulting admitted on Twitter: “The inconsistency drives me bonkers”. And he's seen his fair share of rider country codes at the Tour de France.

When Boulting posed his thoughts on social media, there were many left equally baffled from the ensuing comments. “[It] Always confused me on It's a Knockout when Switzerland were CH. Similar but different,” came one response.

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The sporting rule essentially comes from both the Fifa and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which have official three-letter codes for each country’s naming. Although, even then, some even differ on both lists.

The exceptions, as explained in a Slate article around the 2018 World Cup, stem from ‘colonial intervention’.

Morocco are listed as MOR on the BBC's graphics. (BBC)
Morocco are listed as MOR on the BBC's graphics. (BBC)

While DEN, CRO, GER, BRA and FRA are self explanatory, MAR is used for Morocco partly due to the French spelling, Maroc.

France wielded power across parts of North Africa during the colonial era, and while Morocco gained independence in 1956 after the signing of a joint declaration in Paris to replace the Treaty of Fez, France still holds influence today in the country. For example, French is the second most spoken language.

So, for anyone tuning in to ITV at 2pm on Saturday to watch Morocco vs Portugal, they should expect to see MAR in the top left of their screens. But, then again, there is a chance they won't.

Watch: Arab world unites over football: Bridging divides through the World Cup