Morocco wants to host the 2026 World Cup, but according to the AP, its 483-page FIFA bid neglected to mention that homosexuality is a criminal offense in the north African country.
Critics believe the omission, as well as neglecting to provide a solution to mitigate risk to LGBT attendees, is an attempt to evade FIFA’s new strict bidding requirements.
Soccer’s governing body has increased efforts to address discrimination: In 2008, it launched a Say No To Racism campaign, and has had team captains read pledges against racism before matches. In 2016, FIFA levied fines against Peru, Chile, Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay after fans chanted anti-gay slurs. (Just yesterday, FIFA penalized 2018 World Cup host Russia after fans referred to black French players as “monkeys.”)
FIFA’s bidding guidelines explicitly state host countries must guarantee “there is no discrimination of any nature.”
After FIFA was criticized for choosing Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, the organization updated its guidelines to require countries to commission independent human rights reports and provide upfront risk assessments. Failure to do so can result in a bid being disqualified.
“If Morocco was to host the World Cup, LGBT people coming to watch the games will face a lot of discrimination,” Ahmed El Haij, president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, told the AP. “The state will not be able to protect them nor will it be able to commit to preventing measures that could be taken against them by both the state and society.”
He calls the human rights report government officials presented to FIFA “an intentional silence on an issue that Morocco knows too well is a crime on its soil.”
Under Article 489 of the Moroccan penal code, sexual activity between people of the same sex is punishable by up to three years in prison.
“Morocco’s attempt to hide its anti-LGBTQ law and not define a clear remedy for the discrimination it enables, is a violation of the FIFA bid requirements, and cannot be tolerated,” said the U.S. based Athlete Ally in a statement.
But one of the members of the bid’s human rights board maintains the law against homosexuality is a non-issue.
“Organizing a World Cup is mainly about infrastructure, being passionate about football, and the ability to organize a safe World Cup,” Jamal El Amrani of the Junior Chamber International Morocco told the AP. “We have our laws and we have our values and maybe FIFA also ha[s] theirs… We may have some differences, but we just need to have the ability to respect the differences and to be tolerant.”
The host for the 2026 Cup will be voted on by member nations on June 13.