Morocco wrote another chapter in their lengthy history of failed World Cup bids on Wednesday, when the North Africans were defeated by the United bid following voting at the FIFA congress in Moscow.
Morocco were defeated by 134 votes to 65 as the wait continues to host a maiden World Cup – and Africa’s second.
It was always bound to be an uphill battle for the North African nation in the face of the tripartite bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico, and clearly, despite the concerns about the logistics of the rival proposal, they didn’t do enough to convince – or compel – voters to plump for them.
There are various reasons why Morocco were defeated, although the North Africans will surely demand an inquisition as to why their bid, which leant heavily on compact travelling, a time-zone advantage for Europe, and a nebulous prospect of it being ‘Africa’s time…again’, lost by such a landslide.
If anything, it feels like CONCACAF’s time, with the region not having hosted the tournament since 1994, 16 years before South Africa became Africa’s first hosts.
The World Cup would have stretched their infrastructure to its limits, while their attempts to sally the prospects of their bidding rivals clearly fell on deaf ears.
Ultimately, perhaps, North America’s offer of an eye-watering $11 billion profit for FIFA may have represented too-intoxicating a proposition for many voters to have ignored.
It’s yet another chapter in Morocco’s World Cup bidding failure.
They’ve now thrown their hat into the ring on four occasions, beginning – ironically – with the 1994 tournament, which ultimately went to the USA.
On that occasion they were defeated by three votes, with the States getting 10 to their seven. Brazil received two votes from the FIFA executive committee, with Chile withdrawing ahead of the bidding.
Buoyed, perhaps, by that narrow loss, they contested the 1998 tournament bidding against England, Germany, Switzerland and eventual winners France.
Several withdrawals left just Morocco and France standing when the Exco members came to cast their votes, with the Europeans winning by 12 votes to seven.
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The North Africans were then outclassed in the voting for the 2006 event, dropping out in the opening round after taking just two votes, while South Africa advanced to go head to head with eventual hosts Germany in the final round.
The controversy that surrounded that final vote, when Charlie Dempsey defied his Oceania Confederation to abstain from voting, rather than put his support behind South Africa, as he had been mandated to do, prompted FIFA to guarantee that the 2010 tournament would go to Africa.
On paper, this ought to have been Morocco’s opening.
Nigeria, Tunisia and Libya all expressed desire to compete for the tournament but their bids faltered before the voting, while Egypt – also keen to bring the competition to Africa for the first time – didn’t receive any support.
This led to a head to head between South Africa and Morocco.
The former won another controversial vote 14-10, with the Daily Telegraph later reporting that South Africa were awarded the tournament despite Morocco having actually accrued more votes.
FIFA exco member Chuck Blazer later claimed that he’d accepted bribes to vote for South Africa in 2010 and France in 1998 – both ahead of Morocco.
Only time will tell whether Morocco have lost the 2026 process more ‘fairly’ and ‘cleanly’ than they had done in the past.
Either way, failure in Moscow on Wednesday represents the first major setback in the renaissance of Moroccan football following the North African nation’s major gains in recent years.
On the field they’ve enjoyed a revival under Herve Renard, reaching the quarter finals of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and securing World Cup qualification for the first time since 1998. A home-based selection also won the African Nations Championship earlier this year, while Wydad Casablanca are reigning African club champions.
The nation’s FA president Fouzi Lekjaa is attempting to usher in a fresh, modern approach for football governance in North Africa as he looks to recast Morocco as a North African powerhouse.
On this occasion, the opposition has proved too stern, and attention will turn swiftly to the Atlas Lions’ World Cup campaign in Russia, where they have a chance — in a group containing Spain and Portugal — to show that underdog stories don’t always have predictable outcomes.