Rabat – “La messe est dite”, the French say. This now clichéd adage captures a situation in which, as Enoch Powel reminds us, there is an inherent pointlessness about wanting to change an already decided course of action.
FIFA has said the mass after defending anyone from doing so.
Last month, in a so-called impartial bidding-guidelines-letter that was addressed to all federations, but implicitly targeted Morocco, FIFA and its chief vowed impartiality in the whole bidding process. All federations, the so-called impartiality warnings said, should not show any sign of preference for this or that bid. Should they have any preferences—as they always do—FIFA exhorted federations to keep these preferences to themselves. “Please, don’t go public,” was in essence, FIFA’s message to federations.
“All officials are requested to refrain from expressing publicly their personal opinion about the merits of one or more bids during the bidding process,” said FIFA in its “Integrity Warnings” it sent federations just a month ago. Weeks later, at a conference in Casablanca, as Morocco was holding CHAN 2018, Gianni Infantino, FIFA’s chief, reiterated, verbatim and with the tyrannical commitment of a fanatic, the same guidelines to CAF’s executive body.
However, according to Al Akhbar in its 16th February edition, Infantino has reportedly had an interview with ESPN, an American media giant, especially in the sporting world. In the interview, Infantino, forgetful of the “Integrity” he so fervently called on others to uphold, engaged in a series of congratulatory and laudatory messages to American football (or soccer?) and the U.S’s 2026 bid.
“The USA does not need to host the FIFA world cup to improve its football. This country has all the means and infrastructures to be counted as one of the giants of this sport [football],” Infantino is said to have told ESPN.
But no, Infantino was not quite done. Like a kickboxing legend, he had his final tricks, his best North America 2026-friendly tropes, the coup de grace which, when given, is aimed at knock outing the opponent. Here it comes, unabashed, triumphant, and so childishly seeming to have forgotten what he told others just some weeks ago: “Hosting an event of this stature allows hosting countries to improve the competitiveness of its football infrastructures. But the US lacks nothing. The country has high-level infrastructures which greatly contribute to its developing football culture.”
But one is not sufficiently exhaustive when one is exuberantly in love. And so Infantino had to tell ESPN what he thought of America’s absence from the 2018 World Cup just around the corner. “America’s absence from the 2018 World Cup is a bitter failure, comparable to that of Italy. In this kind of events, it is important that a great nation like the U.S. be present.”
Which, if a you’re a lover of the beautiful game, compels the question: Is there any chance that Infantino—unwittingly, to his credit—mistook Football for American football? Or was he just trying to please his ESPN interviewers? Compare America’s halting “soccer” team to the monumentally legendary Squadra Azura? Really, Infantino?
That America is a great nation, no one can deny that. Some political commentators would even tell you that the US is not only a great nation; it is the only superpower in diplomatic history, so far anyway. But a football (in our sense of the word) giant? Not quite sure. But that is the trick of love: it magnifies the virtues of the loved, ignores her defects, and idealizes her to the point of phantasmagorical imbecility.
This whole 2026 bidding campaign is turning into the epitome of tediousness, a boring play by equally boring actors. Were the decisions all Infantino’s, the biding process would be nothing but a second-hand play in a second-hand theater, like presidential elections in many sub-Saran states: the winner is known before the vote.
Perhaps it’s time to ignore Infantino’s warnings, perhaps it’s time that Morocco—and any other bidder for that matter—abides by the rules when they are fair, and ignores them, or circumvents them, when they are lopsided and so obviously biased.
To representatives of Morocco 2026: ignore this series of partial and self-interested sermons; delight in the fact that Africa and the Arab world (hopefully) will be supportive; do not, as you recently said, refrain from using the Trump factor; be unabashedly confrontational. After all, when you’re the little David facing three Goliaths, and when, this time, god (FIFA) is on Goliaths’ side, you have to be unapologetic about getting supports, whatever that takes.
FIFA, like the Pharisee preacher in the now dull biblical episode, is telling federations: “Do as we say, and not as we do.” Don’t listen to them. Or, if you do decide to listen to them—because you might have to—listen selectively.