Morocco 2026 World Cup bid chief: No need for security fears
MARRAKECH, Morocco -- Morocco has said it will stage a safe 2026 World Cup, without "people standing with machine guns," if it beats the joint United States-Mexico-Canada bid to host the tournament.
FIFA is due to announce the 2026 host following a vote in Moscow on June 13, with Morocco bidding to take the World Cup back to Africa for the first time since South Africa 2010.
With the North African region troubled by political instability and terror attacks in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in recent years, security has become a key area of scrutiny for the Moroccan bid.
A terror attack in Marrakech in 2011, when 17 people were killed in Jemaa el-Fna square -- the proposed site of the Marrakech FanFest in 2026 -- remains the only major incident in the country this decade, however, and Hicham El Amrani, the bid chief executive, said security was a strength.
"The concern about security is a perception concern rather than a reality," he said.
"This is one of the strong points of Morocco and the fact that fans have that perception, I would like to ask why.
"What has happened in Morocco that made them have that perception? What would be the reason to believe there would be a safety or security issue?
"Nothing points to that, no historical incident points to that, so there is no reason to have any issue relating to fan security.
"We have tremendous cooperation with the Moroccan government which allows us to use the public authorities and all the entities that are in charge of security, with private entities, too, that would be involved in the tournament.
"The point is not to have people with machine guns standing there, it is security that will be there in an efficient way.
"With the current environment and all the threats, every country today is subject to a terrorist threat or a potential happening.
"But if we are lucky enough to have had just one incident in 10 years, it is because efficient work has been done throughout this."
Morocco hosted the Club World Cup in 2014, won by Real Madrid, and El Amrani said its success provided proof of the country's ability to run a safe and well-organised major tournament.
"The Club World Cup took place here without a single incident, the Africa Cup of Nations took place here," he said.
"Many other events of a non-sporting nature took place and we didn't have any issue.
"On top of that, Morocco is lucky to have one of the best security apparatus around the world.
"For the fans and their security with the FanFest, with their movement to the stadium, a comprehensive plan has been put together in the bid book submitted to FIFA, taking into account the FIFA requirements and also taking into account our own knowledge.
"On the African continent, many of the African countries contact Morocco to discuss and share their knowhow about how to make a place safe at the same time as [security] not being as visible as it could because it has to be a festival atmosphere.
"And I think the Real Madrid fans had a pretty good time when they were here."
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_