Morocco Confronts FIFA in Bid for World Cup

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Morocco feels mistreated by FIFA in run to host the 2026 World Cup
(WFI) Morocco does not seem to trust FIFA president Gianni Infantino when it comes to the upcoming selection of the 2026 World Cup host.

The Moroccans suspect that their bid to organize the football planetary event in 2026 is not only competing against the joint United candidacy of the United States, Mexico and Canada but also Infantino himself.

Hence the letter recently sent to the FIFA President by the head of the Moroccan Royal Football Federation, Fouzi Lekjaa.

In it, Lekjaa denounces what he perceives are “undisclosed changes” added at the last minute to the eligibility criteria in the World Cup candidacy process that he says were not part of the original requisites.

Morocco contends it knew nothing about these alleged amendments and it complains that it received the notification about the new criteria only a few hours before the deadline for bid books to be submitted to FIFA last month.

Lekjaa’s expresses to Infantino in the letter that the new “scoring system was only finally transmitted to us on March 14 – 24 hours before Morocco handed in its dossier and 48 hours before the FIFA-imposed deadline”.

According to some sources close to the Morocco bid quoted in that country’s press, “the scoring system set up to evaluate the two bids has been amended to put Morocco off-track and allow the United North American bid to have an easy win”.

In the new process made public last week, infrastructure, which includes stadiums, hotels and airports, accounts for 70 percent of the initial score given to a bid before it can qualify to enter the ballot.

FIFA wants host cities to have a population of at least 250,000, minimum airport capacity of 60 million passengers a year, increased size of fan fests, and a maximum 90-minute distance between airport and host city among other regulations.

Based on those requirements, a bid needs to score a minimum of two points in system of zero to five. If a bid fails to score two, FIFA will terminate its registration and it will not be included in the vote in Moscow on June 13th.

Lekjaa’s letter questions the transparency of FIFA in selecting World Cup hosts despite what Infantino said a few days ago. 

“I challenge anyone to point out an organization that conducts a bidding process as fair, objective and transparent as the one that FIFA is carrying out for the 2026 FIFA World Cup,” declared FIFA’s president.

Last week, Morocco bid chairman Moulay Hafid Elalamy went further and questioned the impartiality of Infantino.

“It is difficult in a race when the referee or judge is not impartial,” Elalamy told reporters in Casablanca.

"It’s very serious if the opinion of a president could change strategic opinions," said Elalamy referring to Infantino’s comments on the North American bid. In a previous press conference in Dubai, the FIFA president said that "joint biddings are certainly positive".

Morocco’s concerns are duly noted by the football international governing body. In the last few days, it published a statement that stressed “the FIFA president will not take part in the vote of the congress and is not involved in the work of the task force who will conduct the technical evaluation”.

Morocco is making its fifth bid to host the World Cup and appears more ready than ever to land the tournament. Last month it announced that it will invest $15.8 billion on stadiums and infrastructure if it wins the bid.

Publicly the Moroccan bid has the support of many European and African countries such as France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Serbia and Russia. Last Sunday even Algeria announced that it is officially supporting Morocco’s bid to host the 2026 World Cup even though the two neighboring nations are witnessing a diplomatic crisis.

Analysts predict that if Morocco is not disqualified by a FIFA task force perhaps tainted by a lack of true independence, the vote could be closer than anticipated.

The new procedures include an open vote by the 207 eligible FIFA countries rather than just a decision of the same ruling executive that had chosen the World Cup sites from 1986-2022. With each vote to be published, Morocco seems to have a real chance to win the race. But first it must qualify, still, to the starting line.

By INSIDER Javier Monne

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