The North African country faces a daunting challenge from a joint bid by USA, Mexico and Canada, and both bidders were on Tuesday expected to address the 81st International Sports Press Association (AIPS) congress in Brussels.
Former Caf secretary general Hicham El Amrani who is the Morocco quest's CEO was expected to present Morocco’s case in Brussels ahead of the June 13 vote to elect the 2026 World Cup hosts at the Fifa congress in Moscow.
El Amrani was to face more than 200 journalists from 100 countries as he also came up against a presentation by US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro, Mexico football federation boss Decio de Maria and Canadian Soccer Association general secretary Peter Montopoli at the Brussels meeting.
It is however Iniesta’s backing which has made Morocco’s bid more internationally visible on the eve of the AIPS congress and crucially ahead of the Fifa congress.
Moroccan environmental activist Saad Abid was in Barcelona, where he met Iniesta. The Spain star scored the 2010 World Cup winning goal in South Africa. He's now participating in part of a 26-day challenge to promote Morocco’s bid around 26 countries.
Abid kicked off his campaign with Morocco 2026 World Cup bid ambassador Samuel Eto’o in Turkey last week, and the Cameroon nominated his former Barca teammate Iniesta to next breathe life into Morocco’s quest.
While Iniesta does not vote at the Fifa Congress, his backing of the North Africans could prove significant, and it follows his country Spain’s support of Morocco too.
“Morocco is a big country, and more so it is close to mine. Unfortunately, I have not visited there much but I intend to take the time for that,” Iniesta was quoted as saying by Moroccoworldnews.
The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Sunday also unanimously agreed to rally behind Morocco’s bid to host a second ever Fifa World Cup on African soil which now looks solid.
The OIC consists of some African, Asian and two South American countries as well as Albania as its only European member.
Caf members however appear divided on who to back and some might be under pressure to support the United States of America following President Donald Trump's controversial statements.
The U.S. has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup. It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don’t support us (including at the United Nations)?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2018
This is Morocco’s fifth bid to host the Fifa World Cup and have proposed to have 12 stadiums in 12 host cities for the expanded 48-team tournament with an estimate of US$785 million in tickets sales.
This is against the joint American bid which has projected US$1.2 billion from ticketing revenue alone.