Moroccans welcomed on Thursday the announcement that their country would co-host the 2030 World Cup alongside Spain and Portugal, after years of failed attempts.
FIFA on Wednesday made a surprise announcement confirming Spain, Portugal and Morocco as hosts after another bid dropped out, but said the three opening matches would be played in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay.
After five failed attempts to become World Cup hosts, the announcement that Morocco will share the honours will lift spirits in the north African country, a month after a devastating earthquake that killed nearly 3 000 people.
Soccer is a big part of Moroccan life, with its biggest teams often winning African club tournaments and drawing packed crowds into stadiums.
Morocco became the first Arabic-speaking country to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Qatar in 2022.
“Honestly, this is a big honour, especially after the Atlas Lions made us proud at Qatar 2022,” said Akram Kastalani, a university student in Rabat.
The decision comes days after Morocco was also chosen to host the 2025 African Cup of Nations after several other bids dropped out.
Hosting the events may provide a boost to the Moroccan economy, under pressure due to a severe drought and high inflation.
“The country will prosper and more tourists and national teams from different countries will meet in Morocco… I am so happy Morocco is hosting this,” said Jilali Kharoti, 56, a car park attendant.
Morocco’s Royal Palace, the main seat of political power, said the decision came as “recognition of Morocco’s place … in the realm of great nations” and said it was committed to working with Spain and Portugal to host the tournament.
Moroccan Football Federation chief Fouzi Lekjaa said in a sports radio interview on Thursday that Morocco would provide six stadiums in six different cities for the tournament.
Morocco lost bids to be sole hosts in 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2026.
“It is an honour for us to host the World Cup in Africa again… it will help develop African football,” said Boris Yameogo, a student from Burkina Faso living in Rabat.
Morocco and its host-partner Spain have had a difficult political relationship over recent years, complicated by migration and the status of two Spanish enclaves in North Africa.
Ties improved last year after Madrid moved closer to Morocco’s policy on Western Sahara, a disputed territory that Rabat claims as its own but where the Algeria-backed Polisario Front is seeking independence.