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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 March, 2004, 14:44 GMT
Morocco's World Cup marathon
By Osasu Obayiuwana
BBC Sport

Saad Kettani, president of Morocco's 2010 World Cup bid
Kettani believes Morocco's time has come

For Morocco, the phrase 'third time lucky' has been an expression that has no relevance to their World Cup hosting ambitions.

With failed bids to stage the 1994, 1998 and 2006 finals, the North Africans are hoping that their fourth attempt will erase the painful memories of the past.

Saad Kettani, president of Morocco's 2010 bid, is the man charged with convincing the world that they deserve the right to become the first African nation to host football's most prestigious event.

The voting for the 2010 World Cup comes down to politics
Saad Kettani, president of Morocco's bid

"We have been hoping and wanting to host this tournament for the last twenty years," he told BBC Sport during a visit to London.

"In 1994 we lost to the [eventual winners] USA by one vote.

"[But] there have been two big changes from the last experiences.

"Unlike before, this tournament must take place in Africa.

"The second is that a new Morocco has emerged - with a new young monarch that has given us visibility [on the international stage], a new government and economic liberalization," Kettani said.

He claimed that the country's World Cup bid book has shown that Morocco is ready to take on the responsibility of hosting the world.

"We have a strong and solid bid - technically and financially.

"Of the nine stadiums we propose for the tournament, three are already built. The grounds in Casablanca, Rabat and Fez just need a little upgrading.

"And three are currently under construction in Tangier, Marrakech and Agadir.

The Mohammed V stadium in Casablanca is designated for World Cup games

"The remaining three stadia - the plans for which have been approved by the government - would be under construction once we get the decision on 15 May.

"And as far as communications, hotels and other logistics are concerned, we have made first class arrangements," he said.

Political choice

But Kettani, who has a background in banking and insurance, is well aware of the fact that having a first-rate bid is not enough to get the majority vote on 15 May, when Fifa's executive committee meets in Zurich to select the host.

"The reality is that our bid book was described as excellent but the voting comes down to politics," he acknowledged.

We are dealing with sensibilities
Saad Kettani

"It's not mathematics and things are quite complex.

"We are dealing with sensibilities, with perceptions, with human attitudes, so I would not pretend to put myself in the place of the voters.

"Besides, it would be pretentious to say I know [who will vote for us] and it would be disrespectful to the wise members of the Fifa executive committee.

"I do have my opinion [of who would support us] but with permission, please permit me not to tell you," Kettani said.

With just one black African country - South Africa - in the race for 2010, as opposed to four North African contenders, some commentators have argued that giving the World Cup to a nation with a predominantly Arab population would ensure that the 2010 World Cup is devoid of true African character.

Moroccan fans have been eager to host the World Cup

It is a contention that does not go down well with Kettani.

"That is totally wrong. We can do nothing about the geography. Africa is Africa, whether we are in the north or the south," he argued.

"Morocco is an African country as well as an Arab one, which gives us an advantage, when you look at the geopolitical realities.

"However, we must think of Africa as one continent and this is what we must promote.

"But I hope that whichever country hosts the tournament, it is Africa that wins in the end.

"The 2010 World Cup would be very important for relations between Fifa and Africa," Kettani advised.



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