It isn't a sin to support Morocco's bid for World Cup 2026

16Apr 2018
The Guardian
It isn't a sin to support Morocco's bid for World Cup 2026

PLENTY of diplomatic circus is abuzz at the moment after the world soccer governing body, FIFA sent a letter to member states to signal their support for one of the two major contenders to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup finals.

The more formidable bid is a combination of three countries, two of which have already hosted the finals before, namely Canada, the United States and Mexico, whose bid is a rather unexpected extension of their trade area affiliation, NAFTA. In many regard this looks like a winning bid as each of these contenders can muster many supporters among FIFA members, and Morocco will be an uphill candidacy.

In some regards, it is even healthier in a moral sense to support the North African country strictly because they are underdogs, as supporting the winning bid, in journalistic parlance, isn't 'news' but only when one sticks his neck out for underdogs. Then it is likely that someone might even be interested to hear what are the reasons for supporting that bid, and we could then have a chance of influencing what other member states think, though it is likely they would have made their decisions or choices already. It is in that sense a bit more adventurous to support Morocco and rather formalistic to side with the big guns of North America.

For one thing, while at the moment the difference between a joint North American bid and Morocco looks formidably massive, in eight years' time it won't be so great, as Africa is modernising its soccer scenario rather rapidly. If anything Morocco could have a deficit of how many tickets it can sell to its own soccer fans to fill the stadia but it doesn't have to seek far, as unlike the rather splendidly isolated North American trio, where only Mexico has near neighbors who can travel easily to see the finals, Morocco is different. It is far from nowhere for all countries of southern Europe, and those slightly beyond have no problem travelling.

Already the Taifa Stars technical bench is able to call players in North Africa and Europe to come home for international encounters, at times just friendlies, as the air fare is these days affordable, but that can scarcely be said for players who might eventually settle in North America. In other words, for local fans who can put up some finances, supporting the Moroccan bid is distantly like having the finals in the neighbourhood, but not quite in the vicinity, since with an effort our own fans could travel there. In that sense we are actually part of the Moroccan bid benefits zone, though it doesn't look like that if no second glance is cast that way.

If the decisions are being made now, 'fake news' or scaremongering that North Africa is a rather unsafe zone will be put up somewhere, not perhaps because of Morocco itself but its neighbors or kindred political spaces around it. Yet at another look, and that is what competition is all about, Africa can't surrender from the beginning as a majority of countries might wish for change - partly because many voting countries may wish to punish the United States for some curious remarks about Africa recently. Organising a World Cup finals helps to disprove doubters on Africa's ability in that area, and hence its abilities in general.