When world football ruling body, FIFA big wigs meet early Wednesday to decide the hosts of the 2026 World Cup, a major milestone would have been achieved as the world waits to see whether sentiments will triumph over pragmatism.
The contest is a straight one to Morocco, an African country, pitted against an intimidating combination of USA, Canada and Mexico in a joint bid from the CONCACAF region.
Morocco, coming into the race was not unexpected considering the fact she had always been driven by the need to assuage the pain of repeated rejections suffered in the past while trying to stage football’s most glamorous tournament.
Having missed out on hosting the world for so long, the Maghrebiians had a right to fancy their chances on this one, until the North Americans threw their hat in the ring to immediately alter the equation.
Now, it does seem that they would need all of the heir goodwill, and maybe some divine intervention to beat the awesome threat of the Americas as 206 FIFA affiliates go to the polls to cast their votes.
TWISTS AND TURNS
There was a major twist in the bidding process when US president Donald Trump openly solicited for votes, deploying arm-twisting tactics and outright blackmail to browbeat potential errant allies into line as he threatened to withdraw financial aids to them.
FIFA had taken a dim view of such contravention of its ethics as it was swift to condemn Trump for the breach.
From what would happen later, however, it was clear that Trump’s action had had a major impact on the process.
On Wednesday, its bound to reflect in the voting pattern. Morocco is however not intimidated The North African country in its 20-minute presentation on Monday said she had the capacity to wow the world should she be given the chance to stage football’s greatest showpiece because she tries to strike a balance between humanity and commercial success. Besides, she feels she can deliver a more compact World Cup than her more heralded rivals.
But Morocco’s undoing may yet be the fact that she is offering less ($5million) in terms of profit than the joint bid of her opponents who are promising an eye-popping $1 million at the end of the tournament. This could be a major factor in the voting process.
Also potentially to count against them is the fact that South Africa, an African country hosted the football fiesta just eight years ago. That, plus the fact that they may be seen as incapable of hosting a World Cup that would be featuring 48 teams for the first time could also be a huge minus.
But, a voting process can be as unpredictable as a football game. Morocco could play the emotional card of being rejected too many times and cause an upset. And when it is factored into a process FIFA desperately wants to be fair, transparent and democratic, Morocco may yet have her day in the sun.
The winner is only expected to land 104 votes to nick it. Will it then be the Americans or the Africans? The world waits…