Morocco in bid to host soccer 2026 World Cup

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Morocco in bid to host soccer 2026 World Cup

THE SouthernTIMES Mar 20, 2018

    Robson Sharuko

    Harare – Three years ago, they were the outcasts of African football, having been banned from two Nations Cup tournaments and fined us$1m for pulling out of hosting the continent’s flagship tournament at the height of an Ebola outbreak in West Africa. However, the Moroccans are turning their fortunes around with a charm offensive that has seduced the continent.   

    They have become the darlings of the new CAF leadership under Ahmad Ahmad and they have been laying the red carpet for the game’s leaders, at every turn, in a campaign to win back key friends who they might have lost when they snubbed a chance to host AFCON 2015.

    The Moroccans claimed tourism was likely to suffer had they hosted the 2015 AFCON finals. Tourism has become a major industry for the country with revenues, according to official government figures, surpassing US$8 billion because of a strong growth in tourist arrivals from Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain, Chain and Brazil.

    Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were badly hit by an Ebola outbreak at that time that claimed thousands of lives and the Moroccans felt that it was too risky to let thousands of West African football fans into their country at a time when the virus was spreading across the region.

    Morocco asked for the postponement of that tournament to the following year hoping that the Ebola epidemic would have been contained by then. Another option they proposed was that another host is found for AFCON 2015 and then they (Morocco) would host the 2017 edition of the tournament, or else they withdraw completely from hosting the one they had been given.

    The then CAF bosses, under the leadership of Issa Hayatou, rejected Morocco’s proposal and responded by banning the country from two AFCON finals and also fining the country US$1 million.

    However, the Moroccans fought against that ban and the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the ruling made by CAF and also reduced the fine from US$1 million to just US$50,000.

    And, now that CAF is under a new leadership after Hayatou was swept away by a huge tide last year, the Moroccans have been rolling out the red carpet for Ahmad and his lieutenants and have also opened their borders to try and charm the continent back to their side.

    A number of key CAF meetings, including the executive committee indaba, have been held in Morocco in recent months and this week the CAF Women’s Football Symposium opened in the Moroccan city of Marrakech.

    FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura, the highest-ranked woman administrator in world football, was the high-profile guest at the symposium, which attracted three delegates from each of Africa’s football confederations.

    “The two-day event, under the theme ‘raising our game’, is expected to chart a new course for the development women’s football on the continent. It will also define the future of the women’s game as various stakeholders discuss, exchange ideas and knowledge towards raising the standard,” CAF said on their website.

    “Each member association (was) represented by three delegates made up of the president, general secretary and head of women’s football, to discuss diverse topics expected to put women’s football in Africa on the global map.

    Representatives from the main actors of the game – players, both former and current; referees, coaches, media, as well as experts from FIFA and other Confederations, were also present at the historic event. 

    The symposium discussed several topics, including how to expand the practice of women’s football, how to develop the technical formation of the trainers, referees and instructors; and the means of development of sponsorship for Women’s football and competitions - realities and perspective.

    It further delved into the governance concept in women’s football, the role of women’s football in gender promotion and socialisation and the place of media and communication in dynamising women’s football.

    “Just as was done for the men’s symposium last July in Rabat, the resolutions of the various working groups will be presented to the CAF Executive Committee for review and implementation,” CAF said.

    Morocco also hosted a similar symposium for men’s football on the continent in Rabat last year, which attracted FIFA president Gianni Infantino and a number of high-ranking football personalities from the continent, to discuss ways of changing the face of the game across Africa.

    The symposium was followed by a CAF extra-ordinary general assembly meeting in Rabat.

    But, the Moroccans are chasing a bigger fish with their charm offensive across the continent – hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup finals.

    It is not an easy assignment, given that the Moroccans have failed on four past occasions, including losing the 2010 FIFA World Cup to South Africa when this global football showcase rolled into Africa for the very first time.

    However, they have to defeat the formidable three-nation joint bid submitted by the Americans, Canada and Mexico whose representatives have already addressed the COSAFA leadership and impressed some with their vision.

    FIFA will choose the hosts for the 2026 World Cup at their Congress in June in Moscow during the World Cup finals.

    The organisation’s former president Sepp Blatter, who is serving a ban from the game after he was found guilty of abusing his office during his time at the helm of world football, has come out in full support of Morocco.

    He recently took to Twitter to express his support for the Moroccan bid.

    “World Cup 2026: Co-Hosting rejected by FIFA after 2002 (also applied in 2010 and 2018). 

    “And now: Morocco would be the logical host! And it is time for Africa again!”

    Blatter has a bone to chew with the Americans, who led the investigations into FIFA and triggered the tsunami that saw the arrest of a number of his lieutenants on corruption-related charges, which eventually led to his downfall.

     

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