A World Cup that pleases almost everyone | Soccer | Sports

Argentina World Cup
Mattias Lammens (l), Minister of Sports of Argentina, Claudio Tapa (c), president of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) and Sergio Massa (d), Minister of Economy, show commemorative 2030 World Cup t-shirts.Natacha Pisarenko(AP)

Behind FIFA’s decision to grant the organization of the 2030 World Cup to Spain, Morocco and Portugal lies the opportunity that the international organization found to satisfy all the actors involved. To those of the Iberian candidacy and its neighbor Morocco, above all, but also to those of the candidacy promoted by Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Chile, the only nation that was left out of a three-way agreement, the only one truly unhappy.

The news revealed on Wednesday by the governing body of world football is especially happy for Spain, which saw its chances of being the main venue of the tournament in jeopardy after the explosion of the Rubiales case. By extension, it delights its partners: Portugal and Morocco; and awards a consolation prize to Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay, who will host the opening match (in Montevideo) and the debut matches of their respective teams.

The reality of each of the two candidacies, the Euro-African and the South American, in addition to the withdrawal of Saudi Arabia, is what has allowed the election of the World Cup venue not to have to be put to a vote by the 211 federations that make up the FIFA, as usual. South America did not have the economic muscle to sustain its project and the one led by Spain was very affected in the eyes of the international community by the Rubiales case and also him Negreira case.

The pact reached and approved by the FIFA council on Wednesday favored a single candidacy, the one promoted by Spain since 2018, with the then president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) Luis Rubiales and the support from the first moment of Pedro Sánchez, who became president of the Government shortly before the project began.

Sánchez, sources from the Executive point out, has had a very prominent role throughout the history of the candidacy in which there are other political names very involved, such as José Manuel Albares, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miquel Iceta, of Sports, and Víctor Francos, his number two and a key man in the resolution of the Rubiales crisis, who was on the verge of ruining the candidacy when everything was ready to finish the election.

The awarding of a World Cup always has a great geostrategic background, although it is the world of football that makes the final decision, but with very strong financial support from the Governments that support the candidacies. It was Sánchez who changed the options of Spain and Portugal by incorporating Morocco, by surprise, on an official trip to Rabat in November 2018. At that time, Spain and Morocco had a very good relationship. The inclusion of an African and Arab country made the candidacy an almost unbeatable option, say government sources. But the political crisis between Spain and Morocco arrived, which led to the withdrawal of the Moroccan ambassador and which was not resolved until Sánchez changed his policy on the Sahara: he changed his minister, Arancha González Laya, for José Manuel Albares. , which managed to mend relations with this change regarding the Sahara. There Morocco once again strongly entered the candidacy, and the African and Arab votes that it attracted, added to the European votes that Spain and Portugal had, gave such a boost to the candidacy that Saudi Arabia, a very strong rival, ended up withdrawing. Albares has spoken about this matter many times with his Moroccan counterpart, Naser Burita, and Sánchez has also done so with King Mohamed VI.

But when everything seemed done, the still president of the RFEF Luis Rubiales kissed the soccer player Jenni Hermoso and the Spanish Government, upon seeing the editorials of the international press, which was scandalized by the matter, feared losing the World Cup. The Executive moved to try to get Rubiales to fall – it finally succeeded – and also to appease the players’ crisis with their coach and the federation establishment. With that resolved, Sánchez and Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, met in New York at the UN summit to exchange impressions about the candidacy.

The president, according to Government sources, gave him guarantees of the Executive’s full support for the proposal led by Spain and that the waters would calm down in the world of Spanish football after the pact with the players and thanks to the mediation of Francos. Infantino did not give guarantees to Sánchez, because the decision had not been made, but the president returned from New York with very good vibes, and this Thursday in Granada he was euphoric: “This Granada summit and FIFA’s decision on the 2030 World Cup They demonstrate the specific weight of Spain, they are an international recognition of how we are doing things,” he assured.

Finally, the single candidacy embraced by Spain (it will keep a large part of the venues), Portugal and Morocco has been so strong that it has prevented world football from having to submit to a vote in December 2024 the designation of the venue for the 2030 Cup.

The solution has allowed FIFA to avoid incurring the grievance that the International Olympic Committee committed when it awarded the 1996 Centennial Games to Atlanta—home of Coca-Cola and its main sponsor—and not to Athens, which organized the 1896 Games. The romanticism of returning to where it all began has weighed heavily on the final decision. In addition, the organization chaired by Infantino has ensured security and economic profitability with Spain, Portugal and Morocco as main hosts.

Sooner rather than later, sources familiar with the negotiations say, the four South American countries—Chile was also part of the project—would have withdrawn from the bidding for the economic dimension of the company. It is estimated that the organization of a World Cup requires around 1.5 billion euros of investment, the majority coming from public coffers. The president of Conmebol himself, the Paraguayan Alejandro Domínguez, admitted on Wednesday the impossibility for South America to organize the entire World Cup: “If this had been a competition where our governments had to commit the funds that countries commit today to host, I think it would have been an irresponsible proposal on our part and I think we would not have been able to either,” explained Domínguez.

The strategy of Domínguez and Conmebol has been based on a negotiation interpreted as a race to the bottom and concessions that has led to the final agreement. First, when the World Cup was expanded to 48 teams, they created one more place for South America. Then, they influenced the idea that finally triumphed: that of the inaugural match in Montevideo, in commemoration of the one held in 1930, and that of a match in Argentina and another in Paraguay.

Furthermore, Conmebol, given the international dimension that the Rubiales case, played its cards hard to deliver the final blow and accelerate it in the last month. He alleged that South American football is always blamed for violence in stadiums and bad manners and now the Spanish federation, which led the Euro-African candidacy, was involved in two major scandals, including the Negreira case.

The final proposal was accepted by the president of UEFA, Aleksander Ceferin and by the first vice president, the Portuguese Fernando Gomes, directly involved in the project. Both have been fundamental so that European football was not divided in support for the candidacy. Morocco’s weight both in Africa and in FIFA has also been decisive in ensuring that the project did not lose strength, despite the tsunami that devastated the Spanish federation.

FIFA’s mandate that for the election of the 2034 World Cup the rotation of continents will prevail also cleared the way for Saudi Arabia, which had already withdrawn its candidacy for 2030. It will therefore be the turn of Asia and Oceania, so the Saudis will have no opposition because neither Australia nor New Zealand have any intention of running. With this landscape, FIFA will organize two congresses in 2024 in which it will be ratified that the 2030 World Cup will be held in Spain, Portugal and Morocco and the 2034 World Cup in Saudi Arabia.

Once the candidacies are ratified, a long process will begin to elect the venues. FIFA will make most of the decisions and assume the organizational weight. The local organizing committees have been eliminated and have given way to a society created by the international federation that will act on the venues and stadiums that host the matches, the sponsors, the hotels for the teams, and the training fields. This model, which aims to avoid corruption, was already established in the World Cup in Qatar and was previously implemented by Infantino for the Euro Cups when he was general director of UEFA.

Among the requirements that FIFA demands for candidates is to have at least 14 stadiums available and a maximum of 20, of which seven of them must already be built. In addition, each candidacy must offer 72 training camps so that the 48 participating teams can choose.

The final stadium must have a capacity of at least 80,000 people. The chosen one, although it is not official, is the Santiago Bernabéu. The brand new remodeling that is now being completed, the status of Real Madrid as a founding club of FIFA and the good relationship between Florentino Pérez and Gianni Infantino have been decisive. The opening match will be held at the Centenario stadium in Montevideo.

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