Morocco: the pain of missing out

By Leïla Slimani

Posted on Thursday, 1 July 2010 08:32

There was heartbreak in Morocco in 2004 when FIFA announced that

South Africa had won the bid to host Africa’s first ever World Cup in

2010. Now the country plans to launch a bid to host the African Cup of

Nations in 2016.

Children, their eyes red with tears, cry in front of their television sets, rivulets of red and green pouring down their face, the colours of the national flag painted on their cheeks. The streets of Casablanca are empty, confetti lies scattered across the ground, the whole of Morocco seems in mourning. In this central scene of Wake Up Morocco, director Narjiss Nejjar recounts the pain felt by a whole nation on 15 May 2004, the day that Joseph Blatter announced that South Africa was going to be the country to organise the 2010 World Cup.

The Moroccans could, however, have toughened themselves up. Four-time candidates to host football’s high mass, they have four times been snubbed, despite strong support from the population and serious selling points. In 1986 the Royal Football Federation of Morocco put in a bid for the first time for the 1994 World Cup. The kingdom gained seven votes, against 10 for the United States. This respectable score led the sports minister, ?Abdellatif Semlali, to put together another bid, this time for the 1998 World Cup. The designation for the host country was made on 2 July 1992 – and again the Moroccan candidacy got seven votes, losing to France’s 12.

Decidedly tenacious, Morocco put itself forward for 2006, but this time received only three votes. “This small number can be explained by the greater number of candidates that year. Let’s not forget that England, where football was born, only got two votes,” says sporting commentator Najib Salmi.

The 2010 tournament is nonetheless a turning point for Morocco. For the first time, FIFA has decided to hold the Cup in Africa. Morocco, first among African countries to put forward its candidacy and the one that had always argued with football’s governing authorities for a greater role for the continent, felt it had a right to believe that its moment had arrived.

The dossier – put together by the ministry and the federation – was by all accounts a weighty one. Compared with its main rival, South Africa, Morocco benefited from three major strengths. It could guarantee exceptional conditions of security. The calm manner in which the funeral of Hassan II in 1999 was held in the presence of numerous heads of state had been impressive. Morocco is closer to Europe, where most of the world’s football fans are based. Finally, it offered in June a more welcoming climate, whereas South Africa at the same time begins its winter.

But in 2004, it was the dossier of the Rainbow Nation that won the most votes. “What counted against Morocco was the fact that it presented a number of scale models, rather than actual finished projects,” recalls Salmi. Today Morocco is readying itself to launch a campaign to organise the African Cup of Nations in 2016. If it wins, this will give it the opportunity to prove to FIFA and to the world that it has the qualities required to host the top event.

This article was first published in The Africa Report’s World Cup 2010 edition in May.

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options