Morocco may have just scored big in its hopes to host the 2006 World Cup Finals.
Tied to these hopes is the chance to bring the planetary competition to Arab soil for the first time in history. Ahmed Shoubir, former Egyptian Goalkeeper and current ambassador for Morocco's bid , perhaps said it best, "Hosting the World Cup is the dream of each and every Moroccan, Egyptian and Arab." But experts agree that if the kingdom is to win the hosting honors, it will need strong backing from other Arab nations, particularly those with a 'loud voice' with FIFA. Egypt, having dropped its bid earlier this year, has fully announced its support for the Moroccan bid.
Morocco is one of 5 nations vying for the honor to host the world's largest and most important football tournament - with tight competition coming from other football-crazed nations, such as Germany, South Africa, Brazil and England.
FIFA inspectors visited Morocco for 6 days last week to check the nation’s infrastructure, roads, telecommunications capabilities, sports facilities and major stadiums. The inspectors were reportedly, "Very, very impressed with Morocco's 2006 World Cup bid. The Head of FIFA inspectors, Alan Rothenberg said at a press conference in Marrakesh, "We were very impressed by the official commitment to organize the cup." Rothenberg added that he was pleased with the "professional and complete bid."
The FIFA delegation was received last week by King Mohammed VI and also met with Prince Moulay Rachid, who chairs the bid's promotional committee. While in Morocco, the delegation was treated to a local football match featuring Casablanca’s two major clubs, Rajaa and al Widad (ended 0-0) - a game attended by 80,000 enthusiastic fans. The love of football in the nation was evident.
Morocco, with two past unsuccessful bids (1994 and 1998) to host the world soccer cup, has advanced the state of its road infrastructures, hotels, as well as its sporting facilities since 1998. Morocco even devised a 560-million dollar plan to construct modern stadiums to meet FIFA standards. Fez International Stadium is currently under construction. The FIFA team was briefed on another 45,000-seat stadium to be built in Meknes. Morocco currently boasts several soccer stadiums, but only the 90,000-seat Mohammed V stadium in Casablanca and the 70,000-seat Moulay Abdallah stadium in Rabat comply with FIFA requirements.
As the FIFA delegation departed Morocco for a similar visit to South Africa, Moroccans were left with a great sense of promise, but obviously no guarantees. The giant football tournament's host will be announced in July 2000, and Moroccans and Arabs alike, are waiting for something big to cheer about.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)