CASABLANCA, February 3, 2018 – The 2019 African Cup of Nations and Morocco’s 2026 World Cup bid were high on the agenda at the Confederation of African Football’s 40th General Assembly in Casablanca, host city for the final of the African Nations Championship on Sunday.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino attended CAF’s General Assembly on Friday and he reminded everyone that the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup, the first 48-team tournament, is subject to stringent rules. As serious bidding begins in the ‘two-horse race,’ FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura wrote to all 211 national associations as well as FIFA Council members last week with a severe warning not to accept any gifts or bungs or get involved in illegal collusion.
“The bid procedure must be the healthiest possible,” stressed Infantino. “It’s about our credibility.” The FIFA Circular noted that ‘All officials shall refrain from publicly making any written or oral statements of any kind, whether adverse or otherwise, about the bidders in relation to their bids.’
CAF president Ahmad Ahmad showed his frustration with the rules and offered Morocco’s 2026 World Cup bid veiled support. “May the best bid win – Africa is the best,” said the CAF president in reference to his backing for Morocco’s bid against the joint one from USA, Mexico and Canada to host football’s showpiece event. “I am for Morocco as you know as I have already said it.”
“I won’t be neutral, I can tell you what I want – when others are asked I will let them reply as they wish,” explained Ahmad. “I will act within the regulations and with the advice of my legal counsellor.”
“Nothing says I can’t do it (back the bid). Mainly because I’m not a voter,” added Ahmad.
Morocco officially launched its campaign and logo last month, having failed in four previous World Cup bids – in 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010. The Moroccans used the staging of the African Nations Championship as a launch platform for their renewed World Cup ambitions. The hosts of the 2026 World Cup will be chosen by a vote of all 211 member associations of FIFA on 13 June, the eve of the 2018 World Cup in Moscow. Morocco also wants to bring back the African Cup of Nations to its stadiums.
Ever since Ahmad became the president of CAF, ousting football autocrat Issa Hayatou, he has cast doubt about Cameroon’s suitability to host the next African Cup of Nations, with Morocco a possible replacement. Cameroon is slated to host Africa’s prime football tournament in 2019, but in the past Ahmad repeatedly warned Cameroon that they are skating on thin ice and have to step up.
CAF sent an inspection team to Cameroon to assess the preparations. In January business consultancy company Roland Berger inspected Cameroon’s infrastructure and facilities for the tournament, the first time Africa’s flagship football festival will have 24 participants.
“There is still a shortfall between the report (from the recent inspection visit) and the requirements we have set out,” said Ahmad. “It is now up to Cameroon to make up this shortfall as far as possible, that is all I can tell you.”
“You should know that I am a man who keeps his word and my board will not change one iota of the decisions taken with regard to the proposed resolutions,” highlighted Ahmad. “This is what the footballing community wants from a better Nations Cup – the stadiums, the pitches, hospitals, road infrastructure, airports, and hotels – those are our current requirements.”