By Andrew Warshaw
April 26 – One of Europe’s most influential voting FIFA nations has warned against Morocco’s 2026 World Cup bid being sabotaged amid suspicions that Gianni Infantino may be behind an alleged plot to prevent the north Africans making it on to the ballot paper in June.
Unconfirmed reports suggest Infantino, who is known to favour the rival heavyweight joint bid of the United States, Canada and Mexico, may have privately instructed FIFA’s Evaluation Task Force, which comprised some of his most trusted colleagues, to come up with evidence that could potentially disqualify Morocco before the vote.
As a result, according to the BBC, members of the panel are said to have discovered an undeclared family link between FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura and her Senegalese compatriot, former international striker El Hadji Diouf, who is an ambassador of the Moroccan bid.
Both have apparently been reported to FIFA’s ethics committee, infuriating the Moroccans who believe the entire episode has been cooked up to undermine their bid.
FIFA Council member Reinhard Grindel, head of the German FA, insists Morocco must be allowed to take part in the vote in order to avoid any suspicions about the selection process which FIFA has been at such pains to insist is clean and fair.
The Task Force’s inspection of Morocco’s plans ended last week but FIFA officials have since returned to the country to carry out more checks about infrastructure before marks are given over the country’s suitability.
Grindel told the Associated Press that disqualifying Morocco, who have failed four times with previous World Cup bids, could give rise to all kinds of conspiracy theories.
“If there are only two [candidates], the congress must have the chance to vote,” said Grindel, whose federation has yet to indicate how it will vote. “We don’t need any rumours in such a process.”
FIFA have strongly rejected claims that Infantino is interfering in the process but Grindel said kicking out one of the bidders would mean “there always will be a rumour about the background of such a decision.”
He said Germany would not show its hand before studying the inspection panel’s report.
“I think the task force must give a very clear report and must give all the [voters] a clear statement which bid is perhaps better,” Grindel said, adding that each federation should have to “explain why they are voting for a bidder who is not in the eyes of the experts able to host such a World Cup.”
Meanwhile, amid the intrigue over exactly who was responsible for trying to incriminate Samoura, she has once again laughed off claims that she broke ethics rules by failing to declare a conflict of interest.
“These claims against me are totally ridiculous and baseless,” Samoura told Reuters. “El Hadji Diouf is not a member of my family and therefore everything is crystal clear. There is nothing to discuss further.”
Contact the writer of this story at email@example.com