KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: South Africa’s government showed every sign of running scared from United States President Donald Trump after backtracking at high speed on a pledge to back Morocco’s bid to host the 2026 World Cup finals.

Indeed, so direct has been the South African government’s volte-face that world federation FIFA may face demands to consider disqualifying the country’s federation from the eventual bid vote.

South Africa's new Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa

Three weeks ago Danny Jordaan, president of the South African Football Association, promised to promote Morocco’s bid to fellow members of the southern African federations grouping COSAFA.

Jordaan said: “It is an old myth that Africa doesn’t have the capacity and naysayers should stop using the political argument. Africa hosted the best FIFA World Cup ever and with good support, Morocco can emulate South Africa.”

Task force evaluation

Morocco is challenging a cohosting bid from the United States and subsidiaries Canada and Mexico; an evaluation task force will report back to world federation FIFA before the scheduled vote in congress on June 13 in Moscow.

However Jordaan has been given a double slap in the face from his own SAFA executive committee and from South Africa’s Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa.

Last week President Trump flouted FIFA bidding rules by using Twitter to issue a barely-veiled threat to any countries which voted for the US’ rivals.

South Africa became the first country to jump publicly to his orders when Xasa, in office for barely three months, said: “We are very clear that we can’t support Morocco.

“Our parliament was very straightforward in this regard‚ it is the mandate of the country and it is an obligation for sporting bodies to understand what the country’s agenda is.”

FIFA was unable to comment, bar a reference to the bid process code of conduct, but statutes rule that discrimination of any kind against a country on account of political opinion “is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”

Now that the South African government has expressed a clear partiality the country’s vote in FIFA Congress would appear to have been compromised irrevocably.

The two countries have had strained relations since Morocco withdrew its ambassador from Pretoria in 2004 when South Africa recognised the independence of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic‚ also known as the Western Sahara.

SAFA executive retreat

Xasa’s opposition to Jordaan was matched by the SAFA executive.

It issued its own statement, saying: “We have received the presentation from the USA bid during the COSAFA Congress in Johannesburg . . . SAFA also received a presentation on the Morocco bid.

“It was made clear to both delegations that these presentations would be taken to SAFA NEC who will give the mandate to the delegates going to the FIFA Congress in Moscow in June on which bid to support. SAFA wants to reiterate that no decision has been taken at this stage on the matter on who to support.

“Neither SAFA nor the president of the association have spoken directly on the matter on who to support and the matter remains like that.”