By Andrew Warshaw
February 7 – FIFA’s obsessive attempt to ensure the 2026 World Cup bid process is fair and clean has blown up in its face following the revelation that Morocco was gagged from making a presentation to its own African region last week.
Insideworldfootball has learned the Moroccans, at the recent Confederation of African Football (CAF) Congress in Casablanca, were denied the chance to promote their country’s credentials because of the widely reported FIFA missive cautioning individual federations against making “any written or oral statements of any kind” and warning officials to “refrain from collaborating or colluding with any bidding member associations.”
CAF were planning on giving the floor to the Moroccan FA president, only to be blocked by the FIFA leadership during a break in proceedings.
The Moroccan bid team, keen to maintain a diplomatic stance, have yet to comment on FIFA’s unprecedented last-minute intervention. But those who have followed the process to date point to double standards by FIFA president Gianni Infantino in appearing to favour the rival US-led bid and question why his own conduct is seemingly not covered by the recent ultra-strict directive urging neutrality issued by his number two, Fatma Samoura.
In late December, speaking at a sports business conference in Dubai, Infantino, chief architect of the expanded 48-nation World Cup, declared that the joint bid by the United States, Canada and Mexico for 2026 sent out a “positive message”.
Then, last week, he was photographed smiling and shaking hands with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Separately, Trudeau was pictured alongside Concacaf’s Canadian boss Victor Montagliani. Conveniently perhaps, there were no pictures of the three of them together, begging the question as to whether the trio met privately and whether Infantino’s visit to Davos was facilitated by the United 2026 team or FIFA, rather than arranged by the organisers themselves.
Whatever the reality, FIFA’s efforts to restore transparency to the bid process after the scandals of 2018 and 2022 are in danger of proving excessive and having the opposite effect. The associations need to know what they are voting for when they get to Moscow. FIFA is right to want to avoid behind-the-scenes collusion but blocking underdogs Morocco, who have failed with four previous bids, from promoting its bid in front of like-minded African federations smacks of unwarranted browbeating.
No wonder CAF president Ahmad Ahmad, who ironically relied on the support of Infantino to oust his predecessor Issa Hayatou last year, was so irritated. Choosing his words carefully, Ahmad said: “I won’t be neutral. We live in an era of democracy. I am not allowed to vote on June 13, so I am free to express my position.”
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