The head of Saudi Arabia's General Sports Authority Federation, Turki Al Sheikh, reiterated his support for Morocco to replace Cameroon as the host of 2019 CAN.
Rabat – In a phone interview during Egyptian television program “Sada El Balad” (The Country’s Echo), the president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, Turki Al Sheikh, has pledged his support for Morocco to host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
“Morocco, this brother country, deserves all our respect. We are ready to support it, and meet all its needs,” he said.
Al Sheikh added that Saudi Arabia is ready to “mobilize all” its resources if “our Moroccan brothers ask us.”
In September, Al Sheikh offered support for Morocco to host the 2019 CAN on his official Twitter account, surprising Moroccan football fans.
“In my capacity as President of the Arab Football Federation, I announce my full support for the brotherly Morocco in hosting the African Nations Championship instead of Cameroon,” said Al Sheikh.
Last week, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) decided to strip the CAN hosting rights from Cameroon because it has not completed the venues and projects for the tournament.
Why a surprise?
Al Sheikh’s position is puzzling because it comes amid tension in Moroccan-Saudi diplomatic ties.
Al Sheikh also led a campaign against Morocco’s bid to host the 2026 World Cup. Throughout the competition, Al Sheikh tweeted anti-Moroccan sentiments and politicized the sports competition.
Morocco’s neutrality in the Gulf crisis between the Saudi-led coalition and Qatar angered Saudi officials, especially Al Sheikh.
Al Sheikh said in one of his controversial tweets, “Some people went astray. If you want our support, you should seek it in Riyadh. What you are doing is wasting your time. Now ask the pseudo-state to help you,” referring to Qatar.
One of the advisers of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Al Sheikh also lobbied for the United 2026 World Cup bid.
Since then Saudi and Moroccan diplomatic ties have experienced tense times. When Mohammed bin Salman planned his “world tour” for last week, King Mohammed VI refused to personally receive him if he came to Morocco.
An anonymous Moroccan source in the government told Morocco World News that King Mohammed VI refused to personally receive MBS, bringing up his “busy agenda.”
Morocco, however, did not decline the crown prince’s visit entirely, but offered for bin Salman to meet the King’s brother Prince Moulay Rachid instead. MBS rejected the King’s proposal.