Danny Jordaan. Picture: SOWETAN
Danny Jordaan. Picture: SOWETAN

African football’s leadership will attempt on Wednesday to persuade SA to keep backing Morocco’s bid to host the 2026 World Cup, soccer officials said on Tuesday.

SA, the first African country to host the World Cup in 2010, is threatening to break ranks and vote for the rival North American bid in what would be a blow to the African cause.

Confederation of African Football (Caf) president Ahmad Ahmad hopes to persuade the South African Football Association (Safa) representatives to back Morocco’s bid when they meet in Johannesburg.

Last week Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa urged Safa not to vote for Morocco at the Fifa congress in Moscow on June 13, when member countries of world football’s governing body vote to decide where the 2026 finals will be played.

The two countries have had strained relations since Morocco withdrew its ambassador from Pretoria in 2004 when SA recognised the independence of the Western Sahara.

"We are very clear that we can’t support Morocco. Our Parliament was very straightforward in this regard‚ it is the mandate of the country and it is an obligation for sporting bodies to understand what the country’s agenda is‚" Xasa said.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975, and since then the territory has been the subject of a dispute between it and the Polisario Front, an independence movement backed by many African countries.

Safa president Danny Jordaan, a former MP of the governing ANC, received a Moroccan bid delegation in April with much fanfare but has since sought to distance himself.

Instead, Safa announced that its executive committee will make a final decision on whether to support Morocco’s bid at a meeting later in May.

"Safa wants to reiterate that no decision has been taken at this stage on the matter on who to support," it said a statement.

Fifa has strict rules on government interference in the affairs of its member associations. Countries found to have broken those rules can face a number of sanctions, including expulsion from Fifa as well as playing bans.

Morocco has made a concerted effort in recent years to drum up support among African football associations, signing co-operation agreements with several countries and spending lavishly to host Caf events since Ahmad became president 14 months ago.

The joint bid from Canada, Mexico and US is fancied to beat Morocco to host the expanded 48-team 2026 World Cup.