Why Saudi chose not to back Morocco’s World Cup bid

It’s interesting that Donald Trump has now decided that he is “United as One” with Mexico and Canada for a more convincing World Cup bid. Perhaps his plans for a dividing wall between the US and Mexico have been postponed until after 2026.

What’s also interesting is that Saudi Arabia and many other Gulf and Levantine nations voted for the US in place of Morocco‘s convincing World Cup bid.

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Morocco had been gambling on the fact that their nation is famous for its rich culture, artistic tradition, footballing history and close and convenient tourist links in a Eurocentric world where the +0 GMT time zone slides through London, Lisbon and Casablanca.

There was hope that Morocco, resilient in face of recent Arab uprisings, could begin to rebuild its footballing economy, adding greatly needed infrastructure to Africa and rebuilding its ties with “frenemy” Algeria who also voted for Morocco.

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Interestingly, while Trump warned African nations that he would retract US aid in the event that either one of these nations voted for Morocco, the majority of Africa voted for Morocco whilst the majority of Asia – including the Middle East – voted for the United States.

This hints that the World Cup bid was more about politics than economics, and even suggests that pan-Arabism is indeed dead in a region where political realism seems to be prevailing.

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The Qatar connection

With that said, Qatar voted for Morocco. It seems that, during the recent rift between Qatar and the other Gulf countries, Morocco sent food resources to Qatar.

It’s certainly interesting that a North African nation – typically viewed as over liberal and economically “inferior” in comparison to other Arab states – managed to provide food to a rich Gulf nation.

It’s even more interesting that Morocco, typically a neutral Arab country, had knowingly “pushed away” Saudi Arabia by supporting Qatar during the rift. This follows Morocco also rejecting a call from the GCC to become a member alongside another non-Gulf Arab monarchy, Jordan.

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Morocco, resilient to the Arab Spring, is certainly changing its reputation and being viewed as a source of political and economic stability in the Arab World. The country is beginning to show glimpses of leadership and ideological preference when dealing with powerful Arab nations.

Morocco is now putting in another bid to host the 2030 World Cup after 5 unsuccessful bids.

Rumour has it that Qatar has offered to finance Morocco’s 2030 World Cup should it go  ahead, but this still needs to be clarified.

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