By Robson Sharuko
Harare- The superior financial weight of a joint 2026 World Cup hosting bid by the United States, Canada and Mexico – which projects to generate a record US$14 billion in revenue and US$11 billion in profits for FIFA – eventually dwarfed a spirited battle by the Moroccans to host the first global football showcase that would feature 48 countries in eight years’ time.
When the voting ended in the Russian capital, Moscow, on Wednesday, in the first FIFA World Cup host bidding process where members of the global football governing body were casting a vote, it was the United Bid by the Americans, Canadians and Mexicans that won the rights to host the tournament.
It had been expected to be a close vote, amid concerns by some of the FIFA members of alleged political bullying by the American leadership, especially its President Donald Trump, who had issued threats in the countdown to the vote, but in the end, it was a comfortable victory by the United Bid.
Of the 200 members of the 211 FIFA global family, given that the bidding countries were not allowed to vote and Ghana had been barred from the process because of the corruption scandal that has ravaged the country’s football leadership, 134 nations voted for the United Bid while 65 voted for Morocco.
Three US territories - Guam, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico - were among the other member nations that were not allowed to vote.
One hundred and four votes were needed for one of the two bidding parties to be declared the winners of the rights to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup finals.
There was a massive rebellion in Southern Africa against the call by the CAF leaders for the continent to throw its weight behind the Moroccan bid with Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Lesotho all voting for the United Bid.
Zambia, Swaziland, Malawi, Mauritius and Comoros voted for the Moroccans who also lost the battle to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup to South Africa and had also failed, four times earlier, to bring the biggest football showcase on the globe to their country.
The politics related to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which remains colonised by the Moroccans, is deeply felt in Southern Africa, the last countries on the African continent to gain Independence, and where the brutality of the apartheid regime and the horrors inflicted by the white Rhodesian regime left scars that are yet to heal.
Morocco received most of its votes, 40 of them, from Africa but fared badly across other regions of the world with most of the world’s biggest powers, including the Russians and the Chinese, all backing the United Bid.
Only 12 European countries voted for the Moroccans with 41 votes going to the United Bid, only 11 Asian nations voted for the Moroccans with 33 votes going to the United Bid, only one South American country voted for the Moroccans with nine voting for the United Bid.
All members of the Central American and Caribbean nations voted for the United Bid, which had received a favourable recommendation from the FIFA taskforce because they already have facilities that can host the expanded Word Cup while Morocco would have to invest in the building and renovation of stadiums.
“The US, together with Mexico and Canada, just got the World Cup. Congratulations – a great deal of hard work,” Trump tweeted after the result was announced.
For the first time in the history of the game, FIFA published the voting pattern in a show of accountability to the world after years in which the bidding for the right to host the tournament had been transformed into a feast for corruption by those who were being tasked to make the decisions.
"Hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup is a rare and important moment to demonstrate that we are all truly united through sport,” United States Soccer president, Carlos Cordeiro, said after the results were announced.
"We are humbled by the trust our colleagues in the FIFA family have put in our bid, strengthened by the unity between our three countries and the CONCACAF region and excited by the opportunity we have to put football on a new and sustainable path for generations to come."
Morocco said they would continue to build and renovate their football facilities despite the disappointment of their latest loss.
"I wish to congratulate FIFA for the conduct of this process and congratulate the president for what he has done in order to move things towards more transparency and more inclusion,” Morocco Football Federation president Fouzi Lekjaa said.
"I would like to reaffirm the determination of my country to continue to work for football and realise one day our dream to host the World Cup in Morocco."
In the end, analysts said, it boiled down to the finances and the politics.
The United Bid flexed its muscle when it said it would make US$14 billion in revenue and a profit of US$11 billion for FIFA with member countries set to even earn as much as US$50 million each.
The Moroccans had promised half in those profits.
The tournament will be dominated by the Americans who will have 10 of the 16 host cities and who will have 60 matches with Canada and Mexico hosting 10 games each.
The final will be held at the 84,953-capacity MetLife Stadium, which is the home of the National Football League sides the New York Giants and the New York Jets.
The World Cup will be returning to Mexico for the third time, will be in Canada for the first time and will be in the United States for the second time.
The tournament exploded when it was last held in the United States in 1994 World Cup, drawing record attendance figures, and recording the highest average attendances in the history of the World Cup.