2026 World Cup bid: Ahmad backs Morocco, Montagliani backs Gulati

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By Samindra Kunti in Kolkata

October 30 – The president of the African Football Confederation Ahmad Ahmad has queried CONCACAF’s unity for the region’s 2026 World Cup bid. CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani downplayed the United States’ elimination from the 2018 World Cup as a destabilising factor for his confederation’s bid. Last August Morocco joined the race to land the first 48-team tournament. 

Ahmad said that it is his obligation as the CAF president to back his continent’s bid, but rather than discussing Africa’s unity or potential division over the Moroccan bid, Ahmad questioned if CONCACAF will be united behind its bid, which is largely perceived as an American venture, with Mexico and Canada as sidekicks in a two-pronged support cast.

“It is a difficult question,” said Ahmad. ‘Will CONCACAF be united behind its bid? It depends on the presentation of the bids. There is also a sporting point: will the Europeans prioritise football’s interest? These are all arguments that come into play in people’s choices.”

South Africa trumped Morocco’s bid for the 2010 World Cup and ultimately staged a successful first World Cup on African soil. By 2026, 48 teams will participate in the quadrennial showpiece of the international game, requiring much larger facilities and operational capacity from potential hosts. That shouldn’t be an impediment for Morocco to stage the World Cup, according to the CAF president.

“They bid for the 2010 World Cup, but they said that they’d build their infrastructure even if they didn’t get the World Cup,” explained Ahmad. “They have continued [to build].”

Ahmad’s observations comes at an interesting time, with the United States, the key driver behind CONCACAF’s bid, in turmoil following their disastrous elimination from the 2018 World Cup. US Soccer president Sunil Gulati has come under severe pressure to resign after the debacle, but the FIFA Council member (and formerly on FIFA’s executive committee since 2013) is standing his ground. Montagliani, Ahmad’s counterpart in North and Central America, doesn’t see the American crisis spilling over to the bid.

“It has nothing to do with the bid,” Montagliani told Insideworldfootball. “It’s a sign of how football has grown in the United States. Before Sunil [Gulati] was president, no one would have cared, but football has grown so much that it is a sign how strong people feel about the World Cup. Our bid is our bid. The World Cup is in 2026. That is a long time away.”

“Sunil is the chairman of the bid,” said the CONCACAF president. “That is not going to change.”

On the eve of the 2018 World Cup FIFA will decide who gets to hosts the 2026 edition of the tournament. The CONCACAF bid is considered the favourite to land the hosting rights, with Morocco an outsider.

“Morocco is a footballing nation and it’s going to be a strong bid,” said Montagliani diplomatically. “Competition is always good, it brings out the best of people. We are confident of our bid and we will keep working hard, hitting all the milestones we need to hit.”

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