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Morocco plays up long-shot 2026 World Cup bid

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Moroccan sports officials give a press conference in Casablanca on January 23, 2018, presenting their country’s bid to host the 2026 football World Cup © AFP / FADEL SENNA

CASABLANCA, Morocco, Jan 23 – Morocco is “fully mobilised” for its long-shot bid to host the 2026 World Cup, hoping to be a candidate “for the whole of Africa”, top sports officials said Tuesday.

The kingdom “is not a non-starter — it’s a real candidate,” Moulay Hafid Elalamy said in his first public appearance as chairman of the country’s 2026 bid committee.

“We are going to put in all our energy,” he told a news conference in Casablanca, brushing off criticisms that the campaign had been delayed.

“Our record is and will be irreproachable.”

Morocco’s fifth bid, announced in August, faces fierce competition from a three-nation ticket of the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

Fouzi Lekjaa, head of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF), said he hoped the North African country’s bid would be “a candidacy for the whole continent”.

“Between 1930 to 2030 — 100 years — the African continent has only organised the World Cup once,” Lekjaa said, referring to the 2010 tournament in South Africa, which beat a previous bid by Morocco.

“It should not remain on the margin.”

The committee has enlisted Ivory Coast legend and former Chelsea star Didier Drogba along with Cameroon international striker Samuel Eto’o to promote its bid.

The host will be chosen on June 13, but the way the choice is made marks a change by FIFA, the sport’s world governing body.

The decision used to be made by FIFA’s executive committee, but after suspicions over its selection of Russia and Qatar in December 2010, sparking a scandal that dethroned president Sepp Blatter, the committee was stripped of some powers and renamed the FIFA Council.

The new-look council must rubber-stamp the bids, but the final decision will be taken in a vote of the 211 national federations at a congress in Moscow.

Morocco’s bid committee hope to win support from the 53 members of the Confederation of African Football.

CAF president Ahmad Ahmad has urged the sport’s bodies across the continent to offer “free and massive support” to the kingdom.

The bid committee on Tuesday’s unveiled their leadership team, social media channels and logo: red leaves on a black and white football surrounding a star that symbolises “unity and brilliance”.

Responding to a question on human rights, newly added to FIFA’s selection criteria, Elalamy said Morocco had made progress on women’s and family rights.

The kingdom was “one of the safest countries in the world”, he added.

The committee also played up Morocco’s infrastructure, including a high-speed railway, ports, stadiums and hotel capacity.

They did not reveal how much was to be spent on the bid, but said each of the last two bids had cost around $15 million (12 million euros).

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