FIFA World Cup

North America or Morocco: Geopolitics could decide who gets to host the 2026 Fifa World Cup

On the eve of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, 207 Fifa member nations will cast their vote in a congress of world football’s governing body.

Fifa members will decide on Wednesday whether the 2026 World Cup should be played in North America or return to Africa for just the second time, in Morocco.

The choice is clear – between a slick bid based on gleaming stadiums in the United States, Mexico and Canada, or an ambitious attempt from Morocco based on as-yet largely unbuilt facilities.

On the eve of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, 207 Fifa member nations will cast their vote in a congress of world football’s governing body.

Morocco’s bid for 2026 was only cleared to advance to the runoff vote earlier this month, despite a Fifa evaluation report which classified the north African nation’s stadia, accommodation and transport as “high risk”.

The report left the US-Canada-Mexico bid as the clear front-runner after giving it a rating of four out of a possible five.

Morocco received only 2.7 out of five, but advanced despite red flags being raised over several critical components of the bid.

A Fifa summary of the bid task force’s findings warned that “the amount of new infrastructure required for the Morocco 2026 bid to become reality cannot be overstated.”

Referendum on Trump?

But the North American bid has been dogged by concerns that the vote could become a referendum on the popularity of US President Donald Trump.

On Monday, bid leader Carlos Cordeiro repeated a message he has hammered out again and again in recent months – vote on us, not Trump.

The North American bid leader has repeatedly asked people to "vote on us, not Trump". (Image: AFP)
The North American bid leader has repeatedly asked people to "vote on us, not Trump". (Image: AFP)

“We believe strongly that this decision will be made on its merits,” Cordeiro said in a conference call with reporters. “This is not geopolitics, we’re talking about football and what is fundamentally, at the end of the day, the best interest of football and our footballing community... We’ve had no backlash.”

The US lost out to Qatar in 2022 in a vote now tarnished by corruption allegations which spelled the beginning of the end of the once all-powerful Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

Critics of the Morocco bid also point to the fact that the 2026 World Cup will be the first to be expanded to 48 teams, posing a severe test for the hosts.

Fourth time lucky?

But the north Africans are still considered to be in with a genuine chance.

It has tried, and failed, four times before, in votes for the 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 tournaments – it lost out in the latter to South Africa, the only African nation ever to have hosted football’s global showpiece.

Morocco has the support of many European countries, attracted by its geographical proximity, and most of Africa, in line with a call from the head of the Confederation of African Football, Ahmad Ahmad.

But two English-speaking African countries, Liberia and South Africa, have defected to the North America bid.

Morocco’s bid leader Moulay Hafid Elalamy says the bid is based on the “fervour for football in the country and the entire African continent” and promises all the host cities will be less than an hour’s flight apart.

North American bid leaders countered by promising to deliver a record $11 billion (Rs 74,179 crore) profit.

Cordeiro said: “Our vision is a very simple one. We offer Fifa an unprecedented united opportunity to stage the 2026 World Cup. We believe strongly that this decision will be made on its merits.”

Fifa President Gianni Infantino is believed to strongly support the North American bid because the three countries involved backed him for the presidency in 2016 when he took over after the reign of Blatter, who is being investigated in Switzerland for alleged corruption.

Fifa President Gianni Infantino is believed to strongly support the North American bid (Image: AFP)
Fifa President Gianni Infantino is believed to strongly support the North American bid (Image: AFP)

Although the Fifa evaluation report clearly assessed North America as the superior bid, it was not necessarily a knockout blow for Morocco.

In 2010, a Fifa evaluation committee flagged Qatar’s bid for 2022 as “a health risk for players, spectators, officials” over ferocious heat in the Gulf state in June and July.

Qatar duly won the vote in a shock result in Zurich; Fifa later moved the tournament to November and December 2022.

The corruption-tainted nature of the 2010 vote prompted Fifa to overhaul its bidding process for the World Cup.

Whereas previously the 24 members of the Fifa executive committee used to determine World Cup races, now the hosts will be decided by a vote of 207 individual Fifa member nations.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.