In the minds of South Africans, May 15th 2006 is synonymous with great achievement and is a warm-up for a giant leap towards a global event: The 2010 World Cup. However, in the minds of Moroccans, this particular day may not make any sense for some while it may give a feeling of inferiority and underachievement to others, for May 15th 2006 marks the decisive day where the two competing African countries received the news of the verdict made by the FIFA executive committee.
The story did not start with South Africa and Morocco alone; it also included Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Egypt was optimistic enough that it stayed in the battle field only to obtain zero votes from the FIFA executive committee compared to 14 votes for South Africa and 10 for Morocco, while Tunisia and Libya withdrew for different reasons. Libya was a strong potential candidate, but ruined its participation when it started explicitly relating sport events to hot political issues, especially that of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Tunisia must have known where it stood and decided to withdraw so as not to upset its people, especially at a time when Morocco, a sworn enemy in soccer, was involved.
The fact that Morocco is known by its hospitality must have strengthened its feelings of being a potential host country. However, FIFA does not look at a country’s cultural profile or promises. On the contrary, it is more realistic and looks for concrete evidence rather than plans on paper or miniatures of a construction site to show what the event will look like. At the time of the elections, which were held for the seventh time in a row in Zurich, Morocco had only two big stadiums that needed renovation, while South Africa was already working on the construction of more stadiums impervious to whether it was selected or not. This act must have increased the trust of the FIFA executive committee on South Africa despite the spreading propaganda of high crime rate and diseases such as AIDS, which the majority of the Moroccans thought was a serious detractor. Furthermore, it caused many Moroccans to think that they were the only viable choice.
The prior experience of South Africa in hosting the rugby World Cup in 1995 and the cricket World Cup in 2003 added to the weight of its candidature and helped the FIFA committee in convincing themselves that their choice was sound enough. Moreover, the nine standing stadiums, in addition to the ones under construction, made the committee’s choice ineluctable. However, the 10 votes that Morocco received were not based on something tangible, but they were perhaps based on the emotions and experience of some of the members of the committee towards this country and the images of promise created when presenting their candidature. For Morocco to be ready for the World Cup in four years was very ambitious and may be impossible given the fact that hotels, roads, stadiums, airports, restaurants, attraction sites and much more still need to be built.
FIFA has proven to be more open-minded and in favor of celebrating the World Cup in happy Africa, unlike the International Olympics Committee that has never considered this continent to host such events. Also, FIFA has adopted a rotation system for the World Cup to ensure that all nations are involved. In fact, this was a great initiative for developing countries to push themselves to develop and enrich their economy. For example, million of dollars will be spent in South Africa and approximately 150,000 jobs will be created. This economic boost would not have come to South Africa were it not for the World Cup. Many Moroccans were left questioning what made the FIFA executive committee chose a country that is far south in the continent? They argued that Morocco is at the center which divides the distance between those who are in the northern regions of the world as well as the southern ones. Don’t all roads lead to Morocco? Many were also left wondering whether the FIFA executive members were sharing benefits with airlines? On the other side, other Moroccans thought that their local authorities, meaning Moroccan authorities, were too corrupt and half of the World Cup budget will only end up in their pockets.
The fact that Morocco did not secure the vote can be perceived as a positive aspect of this event because the country has indeed embarked in constructing all the projects that were on paper instead of taking a step backward as was expected by the majority. King Mohamed VI appointed a new Minister of Tourism who implemented a plan that aims at enlarging tourism projects such as the construction of hotels and attraction sights. Transportation has improved since then and roads have been maintained; however, stadiums construction is either very slow or unheard of.
Unfortunately, Morocco has not learned its lesson yet despite the fact that it was bidding for the World Cup a fourth time. On the contrary, South Africa has always been close to hosting the World Cup as it lost the bidding by just one vote to Germany for the 2006 World Cup because of New Zealand’s executive committee, Charles Dempsey, who abstained from voting. Overall, Morocco has moved forward since 2006 and even though it was not selected, hosting the world cup remains an African event which does not exclude Morocco from its benefits because it serves as the gate to Africa from Europe. Now that the rotating policy, adopted by the FIFA, will have the World Cup go around the world before it comes back to Africa in twenty years, all what we can say to Morocco is “Better luck in 2030!”