Category Archives: Morocco

The finances behind the World Cup 2026 hosting decision

This week FIFA announced its decision that the 2026 World Cup would be held in the Americas, and jointly hosted by the United States, Canada, and Mexico, who defeated a competing bid from Morocco in North Africa.

The 2026 tournament will be an expanded tournament, that will feature 48 countries and a total of 80 matches, a significant increase from the 2018 tournament which also began in Russia this week and which features 32 teams and 64 matches scheduled. The 2026 matches in the  Americas will be split with 10 in Canada, 10 in Mexico, and 60 in the USA, including every game from the quarter-finals onwards.

FIFA also published the report of their analysis of the bids leading to the decision on the World Cup award. FIFA reports that costs of hosting the event will be higher than the current one in Russia because of the increased number of matches, and that they expect over $2 billion revenue from the 2026 tournament which will be supported by strong hospitality sales and an expanded global TV audience. FIFA World Cups have four main revenue streams – media, marketing, ticketing, and hospitality.

The bids were judged on three measures of compliance assessment (submission of all documents such as agreements with host cities, stadiums, training sites, and airports), risk assessment (cost and revenue projection, and human rights impacts) and a technical evaluation  of infrastructural and commercial components (stadiums team & referee facilities,  accommodation, medical care, and transport).  FIFA also considered all the host city populations, altitude, time zones, and temperature and humidity in July when the tournament would be played.  Also, FIFA notes that only small proportion of soccer fans have an opportunity to attend a World Cup in person, with the vast majority following on TV – so an important measure is now for host countries to demonstrate capabilities and plans for first-class information technology, telecommunications, and an international broadcast center.

USA: 23 cities were included in the original US bid, and 16 will be used. The US benefited from having existing infrastructure, with all the stadiums proposed by the Canadian Soccer Association, Mexican Football Association, and the United States Soccer Federation already fully built and ready. The FIFA evaluation found that transport systems were excellent, but dependent on air transport, except on the U.S. East Coast where road and rail were also realistic options. Overall, transport was judged “fair to good” in 11 cities, but the infrastructure for transporting large crowds to and from stadiums was insufficient in 5 others. In the US bid, 11 of the proposed 23 stadiums have artificial turf, but they had committed to having natural grass for the tournament. All the cities  have enough accommodation for both organizers and players, but are limited in “in Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Mexico City due to a relative shortage of top-tier hotels in the vicinity of those cities’ stadiums.” FIFA estimates it would cost them $1.92 billion to host the tournament in the US. 

Morocco: The bid to host the 2026 tournament was tied to an ongoing government plan to use sports to drive national unity and cohesion and would play a key role in accelerating the country’s economic development and that this would extend to non-sports infrastructure.  All guarantees and hosting agreements were submitted and compliance and in accordance with the FIFA template and the Morocco government gave undertakings that all 12 cities would have stadium infrastructure and sufficient accommodation for the towns. They also guaranteed that 13,838 rooms in university residences would be converted to 3 and 4-star hotels by investing $20,000 to $20,000 per room for conversion. Accommodation would also extend to cruise ships berthed in Morocco.

Morocco proposed 12 host cities with two stadiums each in Marrakesh and Casablanca. Casablanca would serve as the main airport, with Marrakesh as the second, and there would be ten airports available for international access with and connectivity Morocco’s proximity to Europe and the country’s ability to handle huge numbers of tourists during the peak summer season shows its capability to cope – such as the Tangier Med Port which has traffic levels of 3 million visitors in 2017.  There was also high-speed rail transport between Tangier area with Rabat, Casablanca, and Marrakesh, there are 18 trains per day between Casablanca and Fez and they also proposed a new rail line between Marrakesh and Agadir that would be completed by 2025.

Morocco proposed World Cup venues

But FIFA judged that of the 14 stadiums proposed by the Morocco 2026 bid, nine are still to be built. Also for Morocco only 2 (Agadir and Grand Stade de Marrakech) of the 14 stadiums have accommodation that meets or exceed the minimum requirements for general accommodation, and FIFA’s formula is 5, 4, and 3-star hotels located within a two-hour drive to the venues. They also knock off 20% of the top capacity number to get a realistic measure of the rooms

FIFA also found that hosting the tournament would place a lot of pressure on Casablanca airport to act as the main international gateway and hub for domestic flights .. between them, Casablanca and Marrakesh airports are forecast to handle a total of around 24 million passengers (15 million and 9 million respectively) per year by 2026. The other airports are expected to handle another 13-15 million passengers between them, bringing the total to around 40 million. These numbers alone are below the threshold of 60 million .. and would not meet FIFA’s minimum requirements..  While Morocco has announced 25 new bus rapid transit (BRT) systems and various new tramways, it was not clear (to FIFA) if they would be ready by 2026 (FIFA: Out of the 14 stadiums proposed, only seven (the Casablanca Stadium, Agadir, El Jadida, Oujda, Rabat, Tangier and Tétouan) would appear to have clear and viable transport concepts and accessibility options)

Morocco was projected to raise $690 million from tickets and $380 million from hospitality and the report estimates that organizing the World Cup contest in Morocco would cost FIFA $1.82 billion mainly comprising payments for commercial (including TV operations), administration, services (including IT) and team services.

Summary: Morocco is in the 2018 World Cup, unlike the USA. While the world is polarized now,   there have been a few comments endorsing the American win, with the assurance that, in 2026, President Donald Trump will not be in office, even if he wins re-election in two years time. But with the 2022 tournament set for Qatar, it would be a tall challenge to have the 2026 tournament in the immediate vicinity, and though Morocco is on a different continent than Qatar (the report cites a FIFA rule that continents where tournament are being staged i.e Europe (Russia) and Asia (Qatar) were not eligible to bid  for hosting, Morocco’s geographical proximity and similar circumstances to Qatar were probably swaying qualitative factors in the final decision.

Also see this old guide to Casablanca, Morocco.

Guide to Casablanca

Guest post by MVQ on travel to Casablanca and Rabat in Morocco

Intro: If you decide to do a coastal tour of Morocco, then Casablanca is a good landing place and trains connect most cities so it is pretty easy and economical to travel around.

Some highlights/tips:

Getting there: The major carrier for the country is Royal Air Maroc and typically flights on this carrier are the fastest way into the country. Alternatives can turn what should be a 4 hour flight into a day long journey that can take you on a tour through Europe or the Middle East.

Flying from Nairobi to Casablanca, the choices are Air France (via Paris) for $1,000, EgyptAir (via Cairo) for $1,200, Emirates and Turkish for $1,500 and KLM for $1,800 and KQ/Alitalia via Rome for $3,000

Upon arrival customs is actually pretty seamless and the airport is fairly modern and easy to navigate. From the airport there are two options—a taxi or the train. The train into Casa takes about an hour and costs 35 MAD (~USD 4), while a cab will run you somewhere north of 100 MAD. I took the train and it is a pretty smooth trip—as long as you don’t miss your stop (don’t be afraid to ask people for help.) Depending on which train you are on and where you are going, to get into Casablanca you will get off at Ain Sabaa (for transfer to Casa Port) or Casa Voyageur. The ticket to Rabat is only MAD 5-10 more, and the distance from Casablanca to Rabat takes about an hour to cover by train. There are food carts on the train for all destinations where you can grab food and water so don’t worry too much about getting a snack from the airport.

Getting around: Casablanca and Rabat are both walkable cities (during the day) but please watch your things and only carry bags that zip (try to minimize what you carry around as pick pocketing is not uncommon.) When traveling long distances there are two cab options, the Mercedes cabs and the colored cabs (blue for Rabat, red for Casa.) I overwhelmingly prefer the colored cabs as they are metered (ask for them to “turn on the counter”,) cheap, and generally safe. One thing—the cab system is, err, “over optimized.” Cab drivers will pick up multiple fares along the way so don’t be alarmed if random people hop into the cab during your ride. This scared me at first but is common practice (and helps keep cab ride costs low.) For ~10 minute rides expect to pay less than MAD 20, for longer rides (~30 minutes) expect to pay MAD 50.

Language/ Communications: The principle languages in Morocco are French and Arabic. You can get by with English but this will be a challenge so get a friend or a phrasebook! Even for just a stay for a couple of days I recommend getting a local SIM card. The card costs MAD 30 (I believe) for 2G and MAD 60 for 3G (this enables you to get online.) There is no registration requirement for SIMs and the whole process of getting a SIM and credit takes less than 2 minutes. Maroc Telcom is the most ubiquitous provider and you can find a shop almost everywhere (train stations, strip malls, markets, etc.)

Lodging: You have the option of Riads and hotels. I didn’t stay in a Riad but as I understand they are very similar to upscale hostels. You will find that many are family run, and some of the best traditional restaurants are in the Riads. As for hotels, most major chains exist. In Casablanca I stayed at the Sheraton, which is walkable to the Casa Port train station (gare), and only three blocks from the Medina/ old city and the central commercial area. In Rabat I stayed at the Royal Tulip. The hotel was great—there is reliable internet, a nice gym that overlooks the Bouregreg river, and it felt very safe.

Food & Bars: Try your best not to buy food in the hotels. You will pay 10x the cost of buying food outside and there is always a food option nearby. Street food is decent and you can get a fish sandwich in the street for MAD 5-20 ($1-4) depending on where you are. Also, in Casa you can pick up a Beignet for MAD 2-5 (less than $1) In Rabat I recommend Villa Mandarine—they have the most amazing Tagine and (like in most places) you can get great cous cous on Friday nights. In Casa, I would skip the Pizza Huts and KFCs that are ubiquitous and try out a local restaurant near the marina. Rick’s Café is very popular, I didn’t go there but feedback is that it is very expensive and only worthwhile if you are a huge Casablanca (movie) fan.

Shopping/Site Seeing: Overall, Rabat is much more exciting than Casablanca! In Rabat I recommend the following:
• Medina: Check out the old city, pick up locally styled outfits and other souvenirs, and get a sense for the buzz of old Rabat. You can spend 1-2 hours exploring the windy streets and checking out stalls. If you decide to buy things always haggle—the starting price is typically 1.5 to 2x what you should actually pay. Never accept the first price!
• Oudayas: Across the street from the Medina, you can walk through the old fort and the iconic white and blue painted walls
• Beaches: Near the Oudayas are several beaches. Bring your bathing suit and enjoy the waves! You can get surfing lessons if you are more of an adventurer or just relax.
• Other destinations in Rabat: Royal palace, Grand mosque, Dar Es Salaam golf course, gardens

In Casablanca be sure to check out their Medina (very different from Rabats!) and the Hassan II Mosquee (when you tell the cab driver, say “moskay” they won’t understand “mosque” and can take you to the wrong place!

Summary: Morocco is a fascinating place and just visiting Rabat and Casablanca certainly doesn’t do it justice! You must get to Marrakech, Fez, Agadir, Oujda, etc. Wherever you go though, get to know the locals (they are generally quite kind and open), try the food (including the street meat!), and enjoy yourself!

Also Morocco in Pink from Digital African