Morocco to bid for 2010 World Cup

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Morocco to make bid to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:04 IST
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Having seen three successive bids to stage the FIFA World Cup fail, Morocco are more desperate than ever to become the first African nation to hold the world's most prestigious sporting event. The chance to host the World Cup in 2010 would not only boost the country's sporting profile though, it would also be a vehicle for economic, social and cultural change within Morocco. Morocco is a country full of passion for the "beautiful game". The traditional Casablanca derby between Raja and Widad attracts thousands of fans, who would love to see their country take a firmer footing in international football. Morocco became the first African nation to reach the World Cup in 1970 and have qualified three times since then (in 1986,1994 and 1998). Now they aim to eclipse that achievement by winning the right to host the 2010 World Cup. If Morocco is chosen over its rivals (South Africa, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya), Tourism Minster Adil Douiri believes it would give the country's economy a massive boost. "The World Cup allows the speeding up of governmental projects, to speed up the building of a modern and democratic Morocco, to speed up the economic and social development and also employment. You know that employment is the government's priority. Even with projects on infrastructure, such as new hotels that will raise the country's capacity from 80,000 beds to 230,000, the main priority is employment," said Adil Douiri, tourism minister of Morocco. Morocco have made three previous bids to stage the World Cup, in 1994, 1998 and 2002. The country's 2010 organising committee believes that their bid more than matches the other four contenders', but the competition is fierce. South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup in 1995, proving that they are capable of staging an event of this magnitude, and must be the front runners in this World Cup race. But Morocco's organising committee hope that their geographical position may give them an advantage - of the five competing countries, they are the closest to Europe. This, and the fact that half of Morocco's World Cup stadia are already in place, is a significant plus for Saad Kettani, who is presiding over Morocco's bid. "The advantages are many, many advantages, the proximity to Europe, there is the Moroccan hospitality. The closeness to Europe means that the market is not only Moroccan, but also European. On the level of ticketing, this is very important, this will allow us to support category four to help African supporters, to allow them to witness this World Cup. There is also the whole excellent infrastructure, the climate is fabulous, the soccer and cultural atmosphere is very good, we know how to create the atmosphere in Morocco. The bid is very strong financially," said Saad Kettani, President of Morocco's 2010 organising committee. Sepp Blatter has publicly declared his support for South Africa, but Morocco's bid has been keenly backed by the country's monarch, Mohammed VI, while government ministers have won the support of many prominent figures in the world of sport and politics. Frenchman Henri Michel, who is the coach of Raja Casablanca FC, believes that Morocco have a good chance. "I can't speak on behalf of the FIFA commission, but I think that they have been impressed during their visit here by the atmosphere. There are many things that favour Morocco. I hope that Morocco will get it," said Henri Michel, Raja Casablanca FC Coach. The 24 members of FIFA's executive committee will cast their votes and decide who will host the 2010 World Cup on the 15th of May, 2004. As the Moroccan bid slogan says, "If nobody can, the Moroc can". (AP)

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