Commentary

World Cup 2026 race: South Africa waffles

It's hard to separate soccer from politics in the battle for World Cup 2026 hosting rights between the United 2026 (USA, Canada and Mexico) and Morocco.

Case in point: South Africa.

After a meeting on April 19 with former African stars El Hadji Diouf and Joseph-Antoine Bell, ambassadors for the Maroc 2026 campaign, South African Football Association (SAFA) president Danny Jordaan gave the SAFA's "unqualified support" for Morocco.

“It is an old myth that Africa doesn’t have the capacity and naysayers should stop using the political argument," Jordaan said. "Africa hosted the best FIFA World Cup ever and with good support, Morocco can emulate South Africa."

The French newspaper Le Monde noted a connection between South Africa and Morocco at the highest levels: South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa's brother-in-law is billionaire Patrice Motsepe, whose insurance company, Sanlam, recently bought the Moroccan insurance company, Saham, owned by Moulay Hafid Elalamy, the head of the Maroc 2026 organizing committee.

But the SAFA's position changed on Friday when it announced that it had yet to made a decision on who it will vote for, and it will be made by its national executive committee.

Was the SAFA's about-face related to President Donald Trump's comments, as many suggested, or something else? South African minister of sport and recreation Tokozile Xasa said her government will not support Morocco, with which South Africa has been at odds over the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic‚ also known as the Western Sahara.

South Africa is one of 35 nations that recognize the Saharawi Republic over the objection of Morocco, which considers it the "Moroccan Sahara."

"Our parliament was very straightforward in this regard," Xasa said on Monday. "It is the mandate of the country and it is an obligation for sporting bodies to understand what the country's agenda is. You cannot, just because you have experience in FIFA matters, go into the country [Morocco] that goes against the mandate of your country."

Vasa's seeming rebuke against Jordaan, who led South Africa's successful World Cup 2010 bid campaign after it lost out for the 2006 hosting rights, comes as he has been accused by South African singer and politician Jennifer Ferguson of raping her in 1994 and faces calls to resign in a battle for power with Premier Soccer League chairman Irvin Khoza.

Whatever Jordaan said about supporting Morocco, the SAFA was taking it back:

“We have received the presentation from the USA bid during the COSAFA Congress in Johannesburg ... SAFA also received a presentation on the Morocco bid. It was made clear to both delegations that these presentations would be taken to SAFA NEC who will give the mandate to the delegates going to the FIFA Congress in Moscow in June on which bid to support. SAFA wants to reiterate that no decision has been taken at this stage on the matter on who to support. Neither SAFA nor the president of the association have spoken directly on the matter on who to support and the matter remains like that.”

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