Saudi official hints Riyadh may not support Morocco 2026 FIFA bid

Sports Authority’s chairman says Saudi Arabia’s decision will be based on what serves Riyadh’s best interest.

Saudi Arabia
Turki al-Sheikh's Twitter posts prompted criticism among social media users [File: Reuters]

Saudi Arabia‘s Sports Authority’s chairman has hinted that his country may not support Morocco in its bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, suggesting Riyadh’s decision will be based on what serves Saudi’s best interest. 

In a series of Twitter posts on Sunday, Turki al-Sheikh, who is also a royal court adviser, said, “no one asked for our support in the World Cup 2026 file.

“If we were asked for support, we would firstly look at what serves Saudi Arabia’s best interest,” he wrote.

Vying against a joint US, Canadian and Mexican application, Morocco is bidding to be the host of World Cup 2026.

FIFA members are set to vote on their preferred host on June 13.

“To be in the grey area is no longer acceptable to us,” al-Sheikh added, in what some perceived as a Saudi critique of Morocco’s neutral stance on the Gulf crisis, now in its ninth month.

Saudi Arabia – along with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain – have imposed an economic blockade on Qatar since last June. The four countries accused Qatar of supporting “terrorism” – an allegation Qatar denies.

The blockading countries have listed demands for Qatar, which include shutting down Al Jazeera and cutting ties with Iran.

Al-Sheikh continued, saying: “There are those who were mistaken in their direction … If you want support, it’ll be in Riyadh,” which some Twitter users took as a jab at Morocco.

“What you’re doing is a waste of time…,” al-Sheikh added.

A few days prior, al-Sheikh reiterated his position in an interview with a Saudi-based sports daily.

“The interest of Saudi Arabia is above all,” he said when asked who the Kingdom would support for the World Cup 2026 bid. “Friendship and brotherhood led us to nowhere.”

‘More harm than good’

The Saudi official’s comments prompted criticism among Twitter users, with some noting that support from the kingdom may do more harm than good.

“You’re wrong … Saudi Arabia has become an insult, and its support for anything would harm instead of benefit [any cause],” one Twitter user wrote in a post.

Another user suggested that Morocco was also seeking what is in its best interest.

“We must also prioritise the interests of the Kingdom of Morocco. Being in the “grey area” no longer benefits us. We must make our position clear on what’s happening with our brotherly country Qatar.” 

Source: Al Jazeera