Decades-long rivalry put on hold as Algeria’s sports minister declares his country’s unequivocal support for neighbor, writes an Al Jazeera correspondent.
Algeria has announced its official support of Morocco’s bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
El Hadi Ould Ali, Algeria’s minister of youth and sports, said his country had endorsed Morocco’s candidacy to hold the world’s foremost football event “with pride”, as per President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s directive.
“The decision of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to support Morocco’s candidacy to host the 2026 World Cup will be executed with pride”, Ould Ali was quoted saying by the state Algerie Presse Service.
The news came just months after Algeria’s Football Federation chief, Kheireddine Zetchi, expressed his country’s readiness to support its neighbour should it decide to move ahead with the proposal.
The announcement, made earlier in March, is Morocco’s fifth attempt to host the event. Prior attempts included bids to host the 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 editions.
Analysts say the country faces tough competition as the Canada-US-Mexico trio’s joint bid to host the event is largely expected to sway the world football governing body.
Lakhdar Belloumi, widely recognised as the most talented player in Algerian footballing history, said a few days earlier Algerian authorities had given him the “green light” to serve as ambassador for Morocco’s candidacy.
“Morocco remains a fraternal Arab country and a world cup in Morocco is like a world cup in Algeria. It’s good news for the entire Maghreb region. We will try our best to help them,” Belloumi said.
Relations between Morocco and Algeria are in constant flux over a whole range of issues, including Algeria’s support of the Polisario Front, a separatist movement in the contested Western Sahara region fighting for independence.
Morocco filed a complaint with the UN Security Council on Sunday to warn against the Polisario’s deployment of troops in a UN-monitored area.
Morocco recalled its ambassador to Algiers in October 2017 after Algeria’s minister of foreign affairs, Abdelkader Messahel, alleged Morocco was “laundering cannabis money via its banks in the continent”.
Saudi Arabia’s Sports Authority Chairman hinted in March that his country would not necessarily support Morocco’s bid to host the 2026 event, suggesting that the kingdom would base its decision on self-interest.
In a series of Twitter posts, Turki al-Sheikh said “no one asked us for our support in the 2026 World Cup file”, before adding “to be in the grey area is no longer acceptable to us” – remarks that some perceived as a direct jab at Morocco’s neutral stance in the ongoing Gulf Cooperation Council spat.