More to shout for than just their team

Posted by Firdose Moonda

Raja Casablanca revel in their Club World Cup triumph.GettyImagesRaja Casablanca revel in their Club World Cup triumph.

Morocco’s Raja Casablanca ensured there will be two African sides in the quarterfinals of the Club World Cup but their injury-time winner over Auckland City is not the only thing the country has to celebrate. As hosts of the tournament, Morocco and the African footballing fraternity are set to make important gains from the event.

For the hosts, this is about much more than their own team’s progress. It is about their ability to host a global tournament, something they have been trying to do for the better part of the last two decades.

Morocco failed in bids to stage the World Cup four times: in 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010. Although this event is on a much smaller scale than a World Cup, it remains an opportunity to show the global football community what they may have missed out by never giving Morocco the chance to stage a World Cup and to prove to themselves what they can do.

So far, they have not taken that chance as fully as they would have liked. The opening ceremony -- for which only 10 minutes was allowed -- was described by a writer on morroccoworldsnews.com as mediocre. “Various performers, representing different folkloric trends, toured the stadium in a random fashion while playing folk instrument and singing,” Youssed Sourgo wrote.

He quoted various other reactions criticising Morocco for a lack of creativity and questioning why they did not use the opportunity to put on something more grandoise, given the occasion. Morocco’s sport minister defended the decision, explaining the federation had planned “something big,” but with time constraints, they were not able to show that off.

Irrespective of that, visuals of the two cities the matches will be played in, Agadir and Marrakech, will be beamed across the world. Morocco hopes that through them, they can heighten their country’s profile as an oasis of calm in a region of tension and upheaval. Moroccan daily Al Akhbar reported that approximately 100,000 fans had bought tickets to the tournament and the tourism ministry is hopeful those people will, through word of mouth marketing as they did in South Africa three years ago, help spread the word about Morocco as a destination of choice.

They will also be the first people to see goal line technology (GLT) in use in Africa, which becomes the fourth continent to use the system. The 14 high-speed cameras have been mounted on the roofs and located around the pitches of the two stadiums and if a ball crosses the goal line, the referee will be alerted in less than a second.

Although the benefits of this are not long-term, to see the equipment on African soil for the first time will still be lauded. If the results are as satisfactory as they were during the Confederations Cup, there may be calls for its presence on the continent more permanently, even if the costs remains a prohibitive factor.

But for the duration of this event, money will not be a issue in any department. Morocco are set to make large profits from the Club World Cup. Early estimates are that the tournament will generate MAD 1 billion (about US$130 million) in revenue. The government has only spent around MAD 80 million (about US$10 million) on the organisation of the tournament, with the bulk of the funding provided by international corporates, they could profit to the tune of over US$120 million. It is a fraction of what they would have got from hosting a World Cup, but it’s not an amount anyone would turn their noses up at.

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