Morocco to co-host 2030 World Cup – Palestine and Western Sahara will be hot topics

by MMC
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THE 2030 the Men’s Football World Cup will take place co-organized by three countries on two continents after the winning entry from Morocco, Spain and Portugal was selected by Fifa, the sport’s world governing body.

For Morocco, a North African country, this represents an important step after five unsuccessful offers. It becomes the second African and Arab country to host this prestigious tournament – ​​after South Africa in 2010 and Qatar in 2022.

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But there is a broader vision. The news can be celebrated as a symbol of reconciliation between three historically linked countries. After all, the Mediterranean Sea which separates Africa (Morocco) from Europe (Spain and Portugal) is a symbol of tragedy crossing of migrants from Africa, many of whom die before reaching the other side.

And there is an even deeper history to reconcile, dating back to the centuries of Arab-Berber-Islamic presence in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) between 711 and 1492. Christian reconquista in medieval Spain and Portugal in 1492 triggered a mass exodus Muslims and Jews to the Muslim-dominated other side of the Mediterranean, including what is now Morocco. This followed the Spanish and Portuguese invasion of parts of North Africa.

So, as learned of politics and sports policies, with a particular focus on the Middle East and North Africa, I find the 2030 World Cup taking place in a fascinating geopolitical context.

The complex history between Morocco, Spain and Portugal, coupled with the prospect of an Arab state hosting the event again, intersects today with two particularly sensitive political issues: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and control of Morocco in the territory of Western Sahara.

Israel and Palestine

The World Cup often brings political tensions to the forefront. One of these tensions is the conflict between Israel and Palestine, which Morocco will have to negotiate as a brother Arab state and ally of Israel. The question of the occupation of Palestine by Israel raised his head at the World Cup in Qatar and will do so again in 2030.

Morocco established full diplomatic relations with Israel, including a military pact, in 2020 following the Abraham Accords. The agreements also concern the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The issue of Israeli football fans and media visiting Qatar in 2022 was addressed with caution. This was particularly evident during the introduction of direct flights of Israel and the support of the consulate in Qatar. Football stadiums have become a barometer of public opinion. Some Arab and Moroccan spectators, including members of the Moroccan national team, poster the Palestinian flag as a symbol of their continued support for Palestinian self-determination.

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At the 2030 FIFA World Cup, the issue will likely be handled differently. Many Israelis have Moroccan roots (an estimated 700,000 Israeli Jews are of Moroccan origin). descent). The tournament could offer Israeli soccer fans a chance to reconnect with their Moroccan heritage. This could be extra motivation for Israel to qualify for the cup – if its world football ranking continues to improve.

A increasing A number of national teams qualify for the World Cup. North African teams with strong footballing traditions have a better chance of qualifying. This raises the possibility of Tunisian, Algerian and Egyptian fans traveling to Morocco, Spain and Portugal. And the Palestinian issue will affect Arab-Israeli relations on and off the field.

Morocco will have to manage potential threats to its security and possible confrontations between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian supporters from the Arab world, Turkey and Iran.

Western Sahara

Morocco will also undoubtedly take advantage of the 2030 cup to strengthen its position around the former Spanish territory of Western Sahara. Morocco claims sovereignty over the territory by supporting an autonomy plan. In this, it is supported by Israel.

Western Sahara – or Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic – is a disputed territory in the Maghreb region. The conflict began in 1975, when colonial Spain withdrew from the region. In the process, Morocco organized the “Green March”. Thousands of Moroccan civilians entered Western Sahara and asserted their sovereignty. Nearly half the population fled to neighboring Algeria, where they and their descendants remain in refugee camps. THE Polisario Front proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in 1976, with a government in exile in Algeria. Since then, a territorial conflict has persisted between Morocco and the Sahrawi people.

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Moroccan authorities will most likely use the World Cup to assert their control over Western Sahara and promote the region’s tourism potential. It will even be able to host a few matches there. Morocco has actively used sport to national brandingaccommodation miscellaneous events in Western Sahara. This places Fifa and the Confederation of African Football – as well as the contenders – in a politically sensitive position.

Algeria, headquarters of the Polisario, could decide to boycott Morocco accommodation of the 2025 African Cup of Nations and the 2030 World Cup. As a political entity, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic – a member of the African Union but not of Fifa – is recognized by many countries members of the United Nations.

As with the Palestinian question, the evolution of the question of Western Sahara between now and 2030 remains uncertain, especially considering Morocco’s recent efforts to obtain the support of its allies, including Spain, for its project to Western Sahara.

More than sport

As a football enthusiast of North African origin, I am delighted that Morocco is hosting such a monumental tournament. For fans from North Africa and the Arab world, it is a new opportunity, after Qatar, to experience the games from the inside.

However, it is clear to me, as an academic immersed in the economic and political dynamics of football, that Morocco’s co-hosting of the 2030 World Cup entails significant political and security complexities that require in-depth analysis. . This observation extends to the other host countries, Spain and Portugal, where similar complexities may arise.

Hopefully, once the World Cup begins, football fervor will rightly take center stage, without exacerbating conflicts off the field.

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