KEIR RADNEDGE in MARRAKECH: Morocco’s 2026 World Cup bid team would not choose It’s Now or Never as their theme tune.

But with Uruguay & Co, Europe and China all chafing impatiently for the starting gun on 2030 and beyond it is hard to believe that football’s stage will be set up in Africa in this generation unless the Moroccans rout United 2026 on June 13 in Moscow.

Morocco is bidding for the fifth time to claim the prize for which South Africa beat it in 2010. This time, they say, they really will be on song.

Bid ceo Hicham El Amrani appreciates that Africa’s most stable state is not ready to welcome the world right now: for one thing, all 14 stadia must be either renovated or started from scratch.

But that did not prevent Qatar or even, to a significant degree, Russia landing the finals for 2022 and 2018. Bidding is about clarity of vision and A Plan and not about the here and now, as a chastened Los Angeles discovered in trying to beat Paris to the 2024 Olympic Games.

National strategy

The Moroccans have their plan, tied into a governmental strategy for national development. The national picture is important because it accounts for $9bn of the $15m budget, leaving $3m to draw from private investment and ‘only’ $3bn real spend.

The trick, for El Amrani and his merry men and women, is persuading the rest of FIFA’s World Cup-voting constituency to see it their way.

Within Africa and the immediacy of Europe-across-the-water this is no problem. The rest of the world is another story. Hence the busy lobbying being undertaken by bid chairman Moulay Hafid Elalamy – whose Industry Minister status denotes state approval – and federation president Fouzi Lekjaa.

As El Amrani describes it, Morocco is “an Arab nation but also an African nation with a European heritage.” It welcomes 11m tourists a year so accommodation will not be an issue and the “compactness” of the country is in start contrast to the vast continental landscape painted by United courtesy of the US bracketed by Canada to the north and Mexico to the south.

The benefits for FIFA, El Amrani told an international media briefing, were guaranteed profitability plus the administrative convenience of “one country, one currency, one set of rules”.

A solid record of security and expectations in terms of renewable energy and environmental protection also help tick the boxes of organisational competence allied to legacy.

Bid book

For observers needing hard facts, the bid book speaks to 14 venues in 12 cities, none more than 500km from Casablanca and a modular half-dozen to be scaled down after the event. The country’s economic capital would also stage the Opening Match and Final in its long-projected Grand’Stade and link both and south with Africa’s first high-speed train.

“Everything will be done whether we have the World Cup or not,” promised El Amrani who is no stranger to the world of football politics after a stint as general secretary of the African confederation in recent turbulent years.

A common perception is that this is David v Goliath, a country versus a continent. But the politics grow ever more complex, not least as the ‘Trump factor’ tumbles over to influence congress preferences.

Who in Moscow, then, may end up in Heartbreak Hotel?

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