The Moroccan World Cup Dream
By Eli Schoop
April 20, 2019
The 2026 World Cup was recently awarded to a combined bid from the United States, Canada, and Mexico—though rumor has it that the US was the driving factor behind the decision. It was a fairly obvious choice from FIFA’s standpoint; the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) region had not hosted the tournament since the United States did so in 1994. All three countries have ample infrastructure to welcome visitors and fans from all over the world. However, there was another unlikely challenger of the joint bid—Morocco. In order to prove to FIFA that the unsung West African nation was capable of handling such an enormous undertaking, Morocco put in a comprehensive bid, featuring prospective stadiums and improvements to their infrastructure.
Morocco is not a footballing giant, and few expected their bid to succeed. They’ve only qualified for the World Cup five times in their history, and the only major trophy they’ve taken home was the African Cup of Nations back in 1976; they’ve only experienced wins in smaller competitions like the Mediterranean Games, the Pan Arab Games, and the Arab Nations Cup. Even still, with a population of over 35 million, the country is arguably better suited to host the event than South Africa was in 2010, or than Qatar is for the upcoming 2022 World Cup. 97% of Moroccans were in favor of the bid, and 94% believed the event would have had a positive impact on economy and employment. It is possible that the World Cup would have galvanized the citizenry into putting on a spectacle for the world to see. However, the Moroccan bid was too fraught for most nations to seriously consider voting against the joint bid.
Morocco scored 275 out of a potential 500 points in its FIFA evaluation report, compared to the 402 points scored by the United combined bid. The major problems with Morocco’s plans involved the lack of stadiums, accommodations, and transportation. 9 out of the 16 proposed stadiums in the prospective Moroccan World Cup bid were under construction or only in the planning stage, whereas none of the stadiums proposed by North Americans needed additional construction or renovation. Morocco acknowledged it would need to spend $16 billion on new infrastructure in order to host the tournament; the North American bid could be held tomorrow if needed. True to form, the President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino admitted that projected revenue was the reason they preferred the United bid—an estimated at $1.8 billion, in comparison to Morocco’s estimated $785 million.
In addition to the economic and infrastructural concerns, Morocco would have presented problems for travelers and tourists as well. The bid committee failed to mention that homosexuality is illegal in Morocco and that there was no attempt to discuss how this prejudice would be mitigated. While Russia has a dismal record against LGBTQ peoples as well, their World Cup went off without a major incident affecting the queer community. Security would have posed an additional issue, with the North African location set against unstable regions and terrorist attacks in neighboring countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.
Results-wise, the majority of countries favored the North American bid, which received 67% of the vote. Morocco even failed to secure the Confederation of African Football’s unanimous support, with 11 out of 52 member nations deflecting to the United bid. The CONCACAF region fully supported their neighbor’s bid(except for Cuba, due to political reasons). However corrupt FIFA may be (especially involving their willingness to host the past two World Cups in countries with major human rights issues), a large part of the voting body was not willing to take a chance on Morocco, especially without a narrative providing public support (like South Africa, which was the first African country to host a World Cup), global influence (such as Russia’s massive geo-politcal presence), or bribery (Qatar’s and oil money).
Morocco may one day deserve a chance to host the most prestigious sporting event in the world. But they should not be able to do so if they will produce massive economic waste and disenfranchise their population on a scale only seen by similar instances of nationalist pride in sport. Both Brazilians and South Africans can speak to the negative consequences of a poorly thought-out World Cup; this includes the displacement of indigenous populations and stadiums and infrastructure that were rendered useless after the tournament. Regardless of the current economic circumstances prohibiting Morocco from currently hosting a World Cup, one day it would be a gigantic accomplishment for this minor player in the global eye to finally get their golden hour. ❖