Morocco’s fifth bid to host the World Cup, like its previous four, ended in disappointment.
After a vote by FIFA member nations on June 13, the “United” bid of the United States, Canada and Mexico was picked ahead of Morocco to host the 2026 World Cup.
Morocco notched 65 votes, compared to 134 by the United bid. Crucially, 11 African countries voted against Morocco’s bid despite its projection of a united front for another “Africa” World Cup.
That lack of African support proved costly as, to have any chance of winning the 104 votes required for a simple majority, Morocco needed the 54 votes held by Africa’s federations.
Some of the opposition to Morocco’s bid within the continent stemmed from a four-decade old territory dispute: Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara also known as Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a former Spanish colony in 1975.
South Africa, the first African country to host the World Cup in 2010, was one of the major opponents of Morocco’s bid over its Western Sahara claims.
Both countries have had a strained relationship since 2004 when South Africa recognized the Western Sahara’s independence.
Similarly, Namibia voted against Morocco’s bid saying “it will never support nor align itself with a colonizer” in reference to Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara.
After World War 1, Namibia was itself occupied by neighbor South Africa for 75 years until 1990.
Politics over Western Sahara territory have lingered for years. In January 2017, Morocco rejoined the African Union after a 33-year absence since the union admitted Western Sahara as a member state in 1984.
But Morocco’s re-admission was voted against by 15 of the AU’s 54 member states. Morocco also asked the AU to re-consider its stance on recognising SADR when it requested to rejoin.
Morocco’s Africa foreign policy has markedly changed in recent years under King Mohammed VI.
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