Morocco has announced it will join forces with Spain and Portugal to launch a joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup.
The move would see an unprecedented footballing union that brings together the disparate footballing cultures of Africa, Arabia and Iberia as well as smooth over fraught diplomatic relations between the countries.
King Mohammed VI confirmed the decision in a statement read at a meeting of the Confederation of African Football on Tuesday.
“The Kingdom of Morocco has decided, together with Spain and Portugal, to present a joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup,” the statement said.
“This joint bid, which is unprecedented in football history, will bring together Africa and Europe, the northern and southern Mediterranean, and the African, Arab and Euro-Mediterranean worlds. It will also bring out the best in all of us – in effect, a combination of genius, creativity, experience, and means.”
But the news will likely see Ukraine, who last October had been slated to form part of the Iberian bid, muscled out of the picture.
An alleged corruption scandal reportedly involving the Ukrainian football federation might have influenced Kyiv’s decision to drop out.
But it was the political reconciliation between Spain and Morocco last year that reportedly played a large role in the agreement.
The USA brokered a deal between the two countries to settle differences over the issue of the Western Sahara which normalised relations and reopened borders.
Irregular immigration and drug trafficking has also been a source of tension between the two countries, as well as the continued presence of exclaves Melilla and Ceuta.
More recently, Morocco’s fantastic World Cup run last year saw the Atlas Lions as they are known dump out heavy favourites Spain in the second round, much to the delirious delight of Spain’s Moroccan population and its citizens of Moroccan-descent.
The presidents of the Spanish, Portuguese, and Moroccan football federations are expected to meet in Kigali on Wednesday to discuss the joint bid.
The 2030 World Cup hosts will be selected in September 2024, with co-hosting bids from South America and Europe expected to be the favourites.
Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay have also prepared a joint bid, capitalising on the fact that the 2030 will mark the tournament’s 100th anniversary, which was hosted in Uruguay.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Greece are also reportedly preparing their own rival, west Mediterranean bid.
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