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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Morocco: Fourth time lucky?
Saad Kettani
Ketanni was hand-picked by King Mohammed VI
Morocco hope to land the World Cup finals at the fourth time of asking when Fifa's executive committee chooses the 2010 hosts on 15 May.

After narrowly missing out in 1994, 1998 and for 2006, Moroccans are desperate to become the first African nation to stage football's showcase event.

But their case was not helped by a relatively unfavourable Fifa inspection report on the suitability of the five candidates.

The inspectors were unhappy that three stadiums presented to them in February 2000 as being under construction "have not been realised at all".

Still, that will not deter the Moroccans too much, as the country thinks it is rightfully entitled to win this time around.

"Our dossier is strong and we believe we have legitimacy with us," said communications minister Nabil Benabdallah.

Our stadiums will be full in 2010, unlike in South Africa
Saad Kettani
"If Africa got the honour to stage this World Cup it's thanks to Morocco, the first country to present a bid for the continent, so Morocco deserves to host the 2010 tournament."

Bid president Saad Kettani added: "We have to feel confident, but I can't put myself in the voters position, as it would be pretentious to do so.

"I can honestly say we've produced a technical dossier of the highest international quality, a competitive dossier which can be a success."

Ideally poised on the edge of Africa, Morocco is as close to Europe as it gets and a goal-kick from Spain.

"Morocco is easy to get to, and the towns chosen to host the matches are all one hour away from each other by car, serviced by an excellent motorway facility," said Kettani.

Ketanni, a banker hand-picked by King Mohammed VI a year ago, has the funding in place - US$180 million toward organisational costs has already been deposited in a Swiss bank account.

Kettani is surrounded by a top-quality team of consultants led by Alan Rothenberg, who organised the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

Alan Rothenberg
Rothenburg organised USA '94
Morocco's bid also enjoys the support of its two main trading partners - Spain and former colonial power France.

"Our stadiums will be full in 2010, unlike in South Africa, because of our proximity to Europe", boasted Kettani.

But such statements have fuelled the conspiracy theory that Morocco's candidacy is one of Europe in disguise.

Morocco is said to have emphasised to Europeans - who have nine of the 24 Fifa votes - that they would be a sort of extension of Europe.

But the security factor may also handicap Morocco, long seen as a haven of tranquillity until Islamic suicide bombings shattered that image.

Attacks in Casablanca a year ago killed 45 people, including the 12 suicide bombers.

Government and bid committee officials counter that a World Cup in Morocco would bring great support for a Muslim country with a tolerant Islamic attitude.

"It would allow the world to see that Muslims and Christians can enjoy a show together," said Kettani.

Key facts about Morocco

Area: 446,550 square kilometres
Population: 31 million
Capital: Rabat (1.4 million inhabitants)
King: Mohamed VI
Language: Arabic, French
Football Association founded: 1955
Joined Fifa: 1956
Joined Caf: 1966
Clubs: 400
Registered footballers: 260,964.

Notable fact: Morocco was the first African country to qualify for a World Cup in 1970; the first to reach the last 16 in 1986 and they also reached the African Cup of Nations final in February this year.

The first African referee to take charge of a World Cup final - when France beat Brazil in 1998 - was Moroccan.

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