International soccer has too often been marred with scandal, ranging from bribery to match-fixing to prejudice. The latter of those three is particularly ridiculous, considering that soccer is a game played by everyone. It is the beautiful game primarily for the wheel of color, variety of religions and different sexual orientations that all share a common-ground with a love of the sport.
That beauty is threatened by one of only two official bids to FIFA for the rights to host the 2026 World Cup in Morocco.
With European and Asian federations excluded from bidding due to Russia’s and Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup in 2018 and 2022, the three-nation bid from North American nations Canada, Mexico and the United States, with the U.S. holding a lion-share of the games, looked to be primed for a runaway win.
Then, in stepped the North African Kingdom of Morocco. Inspired after being hosts of an enthralling 2015 African Cup of Nations and perhaps a beneficiary of the success of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Morocco became not just a candidate, but also the favorite to host.
Nations across the influential continent of Africa voiced support of Morocco, and stunningly so did two island nations from the North American federation, Dominicana and Saint Lucia.
I was never a fan of the three-nation bid; it is already hard enough to foster the communal spirit of the World Cup in nations as large as the United States. Countries like the last three World Cup hosts, Germany, South Africa and even Brazil, were much more conducive to creating the best World Cup atmosphere. Nothing destroys World Cup spirit like players, fans and journalists getting delayed in an airport, ahead of a three-hour flight from one host city to the next.
The only reasonable factor in favor of a larger host area was the expansion of the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams, which will come into effect in 2026. Still, one country, especially one as large as the United States, would suffice.
However, those drawbacks to a continent-sized World Cup seem insignificant when lined up against Morocco, a country that will not guarantee safety or accommodation for people in the LGBT community.
In Morocco, any same-sex sexual act is illegal and can be punished in the form of fines or jail time, with prison sentences ranging from months to years. It is a standard that is abhorrent, but beyond the legal ramifications. One has to seriously question the level of safety that exists for LGBT people in a place that encourages such an anti-homosexual stance.
Some may question the level of safety, but that would not include Morocco, which neglected to list its anti-LGBT laws in a 483-page document outlining risk factors and potential solutions to those risk factors for visitors that attend soccer’s biggest spectacle.
This negligence and the reaction to it has less to do with the laws itself; the nation is clearly in direct opposition with the anti-discriminatory stance of most western nations. What is troublesome is that Morocco, which aims to welcome the world, lacking the foresight to anticipate the risk of the potential clash that may happen between LGBT people and its laws.
Then again, maybe there is no negligence on the part of Morocco; maybe it feels the right to enforce its standards on people entering its country. No one has to go to the World Cup, and who are the United States and other countries who feel more accepting to tell them otherwise. The ethical ball is in FIFA’s court, a scary proposition.
If the decision was mine, Morocco would not be awarded the World Cup in 2026 because of this revelation. Qatar is already hosting the 2022 World Cup with similar anti-homosexual laws; however, FIFA had not mandated countries outline risk factors in the bidding process for 2022, and the controversy-ridden awarding of Qatar is no benchmark.
The North American World Cup has its flaws, but I feel more comfortable with three more inclusive nations hosting a game that employs players and has fans who are a part of the LGBT community. After all, the World Cup should be about embracing one common love, not discriminating on the basis of love.
James Justice is a broadcast and visual media major from Caldwell, N.J. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.