Morocco casts doubt on North American profit pledge for 2026 World Cup
In this Saturday March 17, 2018 file photo, a giant screen display the logo of Morocco 2026 inside of the reception before a press conference to promote Morocco's bib for the 2026 soccer World Cup in Casablanca, Morocco. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)
Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press
Published Monday, June 11, 2018 10:26PM EDT
MOSCOW -- In a FIFA election where money could be key, Morocco tried to heap doubt on North American promises of multi-billion dollar 2026 World Cup profits on Monday.
Moroccan jibes at projections from the United States-Canada-Mexico bid came when leaders of the rival campaigns met voters from five of FIFA's six continental groups.
"There is lots of uncertainty," Morocco Football Federation president Fouzi Lekjaa said of the detail in North American pledges of $14.3 billion revenue for FIFA.
"That doesn't correspond either to historical facts or future extrapolation, it's an exercise that goes beyond that," Lekjaa said in French.
Money will not be the only factor on the minds of up to 206 expected FIFA member federations who can vote on Wednesday in Moscow.
Still, a FIFA-appointed panel assessing the two candidates already noted the "significantly higher" number than Morocco's projected income of $7.2 billion for football's governing body from a 48-team tournament.
Morocco's counterattack is that $5 billion pure profit for FIFA would be a World Cup record.
"We do not blush when we propose that," Morocco tourism minister Lamia Boutaleb said in an impassioned speech to 53 African voters in a Moscow hotel conference centre.
The Moroccan bid team took to the stage at a Confederation for African Football (CAF) meeting minutes after the North Americans presented their plan to what shaped as its most hostile audience of the day.
"We have shown the best we have to offer to all the FIFA members," Decio de Maria, the Mexico federation president, said.
Though the American team was met with just polite applause, and no follow-up questions, it still hopes for African votes on Wednesday.
Liberia, Namibia, and Zimbabwe pledged support before arriving in Russia, and the North Americans have targeted voters in the southern African group known as COSAFA.
It was perhaps telling that CAF President Ahmad stressed the need to "show cohesion within our continent" in a contest where FIFA will publish each member's choice soon after the ballot.
"There is an obligation to remain within our family," the Madagascar official said "But of course it is an individual choice."
The African meeting began with Ahmad announcing his first vice-president, Kwesi Nyantakyi, resigned from CAF and FIFA's ruling council while facing a corruption investigation in his native Ghana.
A television documentary last week showed Nyantakyi taking $65,000 in cash from undercover reporters posing as businessmen to secure favour with Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo and other government officials.
Ghana can vote on Wednesday, though Moroccan attempts to pressure FIFA into acting against four American territories seem sure to fail.
FIFA election rules suggested American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands could be barred from voting by a potential conflict of interest.
"Our voting delegate has a New Zealand passport," American Samoan official Sandra Fruean, a FIFA Council member, told The Associated Press.
The last-minute lobbying continues on Tuesday morning at another central Moscow hotel, where the rival bid teams make presentations to 54 European voters.