Morocco hopes its fifth time lucky in bid to host World Cup

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Casablanca, April 1 (IANS) Despite four previous failed attempts, Morocco is once again seeking to host a FIFA World Cup and hopes it will finally be given the chance to do so in 2026.

“Soccer is in our DNA,” the chief executive of the Morocco 2026 bid committee Hicham el-Amrani, said in a presentation in Marrakesh, just weeks before the FIFA Congress will decide on June 13 in Moscow whether to select either of the bidders as the host, reports Efe.

The other candidate is a joint bid by Mexico, the United States and Canada.

Football is a vital part of Moroccans’ life and culture, with the streets of Marrakesh and Casablanca filled with people wearing team jerseys and ads encouraging would-be travellers to head to this summer’s World Cup in Russia.

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This fever for the sport makes the will to host football’s showcase event as strong as ever, in spite of failed bids to put on the 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 tournaments.

Morocco is proposing to use 14 stadiums (of which FIFA would choose 12) in a dozen cities as match venues for the tournament, which will be the biggest-ever in terms of participating teams (48 national squads instead of 32).

The stadiums will range from the planned 96,000-seat Grand Stade de Casablanca to the planned 45,400-seat Grand Stade de Oujda.

Morocco’s biggest asset is its proximity to huge soccer markets in Europe, as the time difference between North America and the old continent could pose a problem in terms of the value of television broadcasting rights.

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Morocco, for its part, says it expects to receive $3.1 billion in revenue from broadcasting rights alone.

It also says the proximity of the venues to one another is a key selling point, with all of the planned host cities located within a 550-kilometer (342-mile) radius of Rabat.

Additionally, el-Jadida and Meknes would be the only cities not accessible by the country’s train and highway network, while Tangier and Casablanca are due to be connected shortly by Africa’s first-ever high-speed rail link.

Morocco plans to invest a total of $15 billion in hosting the World Cup, including $9.6 billion in transportation, conference centres and hospitals, $3 billion in sports infrastructure and $3.2 billion to improve hotel infrastructure.

A big question mark for the country is the issue of public safety, but el-Amrani told Efe that he did not understand that concern and that in terms of terrorism and murders Morocco is a very safe country.

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–IANS

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