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Why Not a Joint Morocco-Senegal Bid for the World Cup in 2030?

The Lions of Atlas have qualified for the semi-finals of the 2022 World Cup. This great sporting achievement makes Morocco the first African country to reach this stage of the competition. The Moroccan team has so far achieved a flawless course, with a close-knit, united and valiant group, but above all with a young coach Walid Regragui, a former footballer, young assistant to coaches Wahid Halilosic and Hervé Renard. Without rank or great experience outside of his country and on whom we did not bet a dirham when he took charge of the group, only four months ago saying mischievously, « playing the firefighter on duty ».

This Moroccan group is still capable of a new feat against France this Wednesday, December 14, 2022, and possibly lift the world trophy on the evening of December 18, 2022. The big performance of Morocco will undoubtedly reshuffle the cards of football chessboard. Morocco, which has been following the dream for decades of organising a Football World Cup, has just fulfilled a sporting criterion, ticking a box that is probably not always decisive, but, in truth, the advantage of now being part of the four best footballing nations should have its weight in the future decisions of the International Federation of Football Association (Fifa), in particular in the choice of a host country for the competition. Unbelievably, Morocco has eliminated major teams such as Spain, Portugal, Belgium. Morocco has suffered setbacks five times in its unsuccessful bid to organise the Football World Cup. The hope was immense during the last vote for the choice of the host country of the 2026 World Cup but the intransigence of American diplomacy with a President Donald Trump who publicly threatened to cut aid to countries which would vote against the United States got the better off Morocco’s case.Out of 203 voters, Morocco collected 65 votes. In view of greater transparency in the choices, the voting system at Fifahas been changed, in the meantime, and the rule of « one country one vote » is now in force. The USA will, therefore, with Mexico and Canada, host the next World Cup in 2026. However, Morocco has not been discouraged, and has once again announced its candidacy for the 2030 edition.

Morocco Is Looking for a Co-host Country

Morocco presents an eloquent case to be able to organise the Football World Cup alone. Only, FIFA now seems to be in the logic of promoting the co-organisation of the World Cup by several countries, with plans to expand the number of participants qualified teams from 32 to 48. The idea would be underpinned by a desire to establish more sporting equity but also to make the competition more inclusive. This is how England announced its candidacy along with neighbours such as Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Portugal and Spain would also like to get together to request the co-organisation of the 2030 World Cup.

Gianni Infantino, President of Fifa did not want to be insensitive to Morocco’s ambition to host the competition and during the third Fifa Football Executive Summit in Marrakech, from January 15 to 17, 2019, hinted that he was in favour of a joint bid between Rabat (Morocco), Madrid (Spain) and Porto (Portugal) to organise the 2030 World Cup. The declaration had angered the president of Uefa, Aleksander Ceferin who did not want to hear of a World Cup organised by countries from two different continents.

This position was previously defended by Infantino, before making a spectacular turnaround. For their part, the Spanish authorities sought to seize the pass to propose, through the voice of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, visiting Morocco, a joint Spain-Morocco-Portugal candidacy. The idea thus seems to be definitively acquired that the 2030 World Cup will be awarded in the format of a co-organisation as was the case in 2002 for Japan and Korea and in 2026 for the USA-Mexico-Canada trio. Africa should claim the right to once again host the World Cup on its soil. It was in 2010 that Fifa organised the Football World Cup for the first time on the black continent. South Africa, whose candidacy was carried by « Mandelamania » had stolen the limelight from Morocco. Wouldn’t Senegalese diplomacy be bold enough to propose a co-organisation with Morocco? Naturally, Morocco has more assets to lead the operation, but the contribution of Senegal could be important.

The Senegalese Bid Will Not Be Ridiculous

Once again, Senegal could not claim to play the leader of the duo with Morocco, but it will be able to host several matches on its soil. Moreover, in view of a certain geographical continuity with Morocco, matches could be offered to Mauritania. England, for example, would plan the same scheme of offering matches to Eire. If Mauritania is involved and interested in the project, it could renovate and expand its Nouakchott stadium of 40,000 seats to better meet the requirements of a football World Cup match. Let’s be even more daring by integrating Côte d’Ivoire into the operation. It organises CAN 2023 and will also have standard infrastructure. Euro 2020 was played in several countries and the North American World Cup in 2026 will follow the same organisational model.

In its candidacy dossier for the 2026 World Cup, Morocco had unveiled 14 stadiums, 12 of which were selected by Fifaand Morocco planned to invest 3 billion dollars to complete the work in progress. We can remember that Qatar, for the 2022 edition, presented only eight stadiums. The difference in the number of stadiums is explained by the concern or the need to satisfy FIFA’s desire to increase the number of qualified countries from the 2026 edition. Senegal may add to the application file at least three stadiums worthy of hosting World Cup matches. These will be the Abdoulaye Wade Stadium in Diamniado, the Léopold Sédar Senghor Stadium in Dakar (under renovation) and one of the removable stadiums for the Qatar World Cup which was already offered to Senegal by the Qatari authorities. By 2030, Senegal will have finished settling mobility issues, with its ongoing projects for highways, train lines and regional airports. The Royal Air Maroc and Air Senegal will make travel more fluid. Already it would not take more than two hours and a half to rally Senegal to Morocco while in Russia for the 2018 World Cup, it took the duration of a long-haul flight to connect certain cities chosen to host matches.

It will be the same situation in 2026 between the USA, Canada and Mexico. In addition, the proposed road from Dakar to Tangier should be a reality. Senegal’s hotel capacity is on a strong upward trend and new investments could be encouraged. Senegal will be ready before the deadline because it will host the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in 2026 and can also allow itself the opportunity to host an African Cup of Nations Football tournament. This will be a certain consistency in sporting events. Moreover, what will be most appealing for a synergy between Senegal and Morocco will be the proximity of their populations for socio-cultural and historical reasons as well as the diplomatic proximity between the two countries. Senegalese and Moroccan authorities have identical positions on international issues. In a vote, Senegal will be able to obtain certain votes which should inevitably be lacking in Morocco. In addition, Senegal’s partnership with Morocco will give a more obvious anchoring of Africa south of the Sahara in the organisation of the event.

It must be emphasised that the organisation of a World Cup is a great opportunity for any country. The nations that jostle to host the football world do not do so only for prestige or for the playful or festive aspects. A World Cup pays off big, generates big economic and social benefits and is an unparalleled showcase for selling a country, a tourist destination or investments. Everything is a question of audacity, political will or ambition. Many will no doubt remain simplistic in order not to dare the challenge and inhibit any ambition, but the opportunity to seek to engage alongside Morocco is to be seized by our country. In 2013, when we drew in these columns the prospects for oil and gas or the highways or the TER lines or the future city of Diamniadio, some laughed talking of delirium. However, these realities have become our daily life now. Senegal’s economic prospects allow for investments that are certainly significant, but whose profitability are not questionable.

By Madiambal DIAGNE / mdiagne@lequotidien.sn

  • Translation by Ndey T. SOSSEH

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