A FIFA task force arrived in Morocco on Monday to inspect a World Cup bid that obscures one potential impediment to hosting the 2026 soccer showpiece: Homosexuality is a criminal offense in the north African country.
An Associated Press review of 483 pages of documents submitted to FIFA found Morocco failed to declare its anti-LGBT law as a risk factor and provide a remedy, appearing to flout stringent new bidding requirements.
“Morocco’s human rights report presented to the FIFA is an intentional silence on an issue that Morocco knows too well is a crime on its soil,” Ahmed El Haij, president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, told the AP.
“It is evident that if Morocco was to host the World Cup, LGBT people coming to watch the games will face a lot of discrimination. The state will not be able to protect them nor will it be able to commit in preventing measures that could be taken against them by both the state and society.”
Under Article 489 of the Moroccan penal code, sexual acts between people of the same sex are punishable by six months to three years in prison.
While World Cup hosts could previously largely shake off concerns from activists, FIFA has demonstrated a growing awareness in recent years of how rights abuses can impact its events.
World Cups must be in environments free of “discrimination based on sexual orientation,” FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura wrote to activists last year discussing the upcoming tournament in Russia. Samoura’s letter reflected a policy incorporated into the world soccer statutes in 2013 as scrutiny of human rights mounted in Russia and 2022 World Cup host Qatar.
“Under the new nondiscrimination requirements under FIFA’s statutes and under the Human Rights Policy, one of the red lines is anti-gay activity laws or policies,” Human Rights Watch director of global initiatives Minky Worden told the AP.
“Morocco, if they’re serious about winning, would need to be prepared to repeal the article of the penal code which punishes people for being gay,” she added.
Unlike when Russia and Qatar emerged victorious in the 2018-2022 FIFA bidding contest eight years ago, prospective hosts for the 2026 tournament were mandated to commission independent human rights reports and provide frank risk assessments that form part of the task force’s evaluation.
While the United States-Canada-Mexico bid chose to publish its human rights documents, Morocco repeatedly refused requests from the AP to match the disclosure. The Morocco bid’s international communications team also declined to provide any LGBT policy or how the criminalization of same-sex relations would be addressed during a potential World Cup.
The AP was provided with the human rights annexes to Morocco’s bid book by FIFA only after highlighting the north African nation’s lack of transparency to the soccer world and the up to 207 member nations who will vote on the 2026 host on June 13.
There is a solitary passing reference to LGBT rights in the main 381-page bid book: A narrowly worded pledge by the Moroccan soccer federation to “work to combat all forms of discrimination” including “sexual orientation,” signed by its president, Fouzi Leekjaa.
There is no mention of homosexuality being a criminal offense in the bid book, nor in the 27-page executive page executive summary.
Significantly, it is also omitted from the 33-page human rights strategy in which bids were told by FIFA to own up to “adverse impacts” and provide mechanisms to address them. The equivalent 90-page document from the rival North American bid features 20 mentions of “LGBTQI ” and eight references to “sexual orientation,” pledging to use their leverage to reduce the risk of discrimination and harassment in Mexico and the U.S. in particular.
“It trips you up in a bid like this because then you are submitting documents that don’t accurately reflect the human rights situation in your own country,” Worden said. “And you have missed an opportunity to engage the stakeholders who will come back to criticize you if you don’t uphold international human rights.”
Morocco’s only acknowledgement that homosexuality is outlawed comes within one sentence in a 42-page — nominally independent — “study on the human rights situation.”
Even then, the reference is ambiguous and implies the law might no longer be in place.
The study cites the United Nations Human Rights Council’s ” Universal Periodic Review ” of the country, stating “Morocco took note of forty-four recommendations,” including “the decriminalization of homosexual relations.”
How Morocco responded to the recommendation is not provided to FIFA. That could be because Morocco told the UN in August 2017 it “completely rejects” proposals to decriminalize same-sex relations and violence against people based on their sexual orientation.
“Article 1 of the Constitution highlights the special framework of the federative constants of the Moroccan nation, namely, the moderate Muslim religion, national unity with its multiple components, constitutional monarchy and the democratic choice,” Morocco said in a response to the UN last year . “Thus, the Kingdom does not accept these recommendations since they are in contradiction with the above-mentioned federative constants.”
Amnesty International said it was “regrettable” Morocco has yet to repeal the articles in the penal code prohibiting same-sex sexual relations, pointing to cases last year when at least two men were sentenced to six months imprisonment.
“This contravenes the international and regional human rights treaties which Morocco has signed and ratified, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” Amnesty told the AP.
The independence of Morocco’s independent human rights study is debatable since it was co-authored by the country’s National Human Rights Council, whose president was appointed by the king and is on the bid’s human rights committee. The equivalent from the North American bid was produced by London-based Ergon Associates.
“It’s very clear from reading these bids against each other that the united bid of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico are taking this process quite seriously both in the scope and the scale and have admitted to human rights problems that they have that they will need to address,” Worden said. “And there are very serious concerns both on the LGBT discrimination front and on women’s rights (in Morocco). None of those things are mentioned or acknowledged in the bid.”
But one of the members of the bid’s human rights board maintained Morocco is a “friendly and tolerant” country.
“I don’t think that (ban on homosexuality) will be an issue because organizing a World Cup is mainly about infrastructure, being passionate about football, and the ability to organize a safe World Cup,” said Jamal Elamrani, who represents the Junior Chamber International organization in Morocco representing people aged 18 to 40.
“We have our laws and we have our values and maybe FIFA also have their values. … We may have some differences but we just need to have the ability to respect the differences and to be tolerant.”
Associated Press writer Amira El Masaiti in Rabat, Morocco, contributed to this report.
Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports
More AP World Cup coverage: www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup
Manchester United Star Scott Mctominay Hailed For What He Said To Antonio Valencia After Tottenham Win
SCOTT MCTOMINAY has further endeared himself to the hearts of Manchester United fans after their FA Cup win over Tottenham.
The Red Devils are still firmly in the hunt for silverware after coming from behind to beat Spurs and set up a final clash against Chelsea next month.
Young midfielder Scott McTominay saw his captain struggling in the tunnel
McTominay, 21, wasn’t in the squad but was still there to lend a helping hand to Antonio Valencia.
United’s captain looked shattered after being replaced on the 80th minute for Matteo Darmian.
And at full-time he was snapped hobbling in the Wembley tunnel as he struggled walking to the dressing room.
But the young midfielder was on hand and said to his veteran team-mate: “Captain, put your arm around me.”
McTominay said to Valencia: “Captain, put your arm around me.”
He was left out of the squad for the FA Cup win but could still play his part
United fans took to Twitter to praise McTominay for his class and professionalism.
One said: “Shows a lot about his class and spirit even at such a young age.”
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Another wrote: “And that is why Scott is a future star and the likes of Martial and Shaw are not. Attitude is far more important than talent.”
United showed their fighting spirit to book another Wembley date after falling behind through Dele Alli’s strike.
Getty – Contributor Youngster Scott McTominay has made 20 appearances in all competitions this season
Tottenham Risk Losing The Likes Of Dele Alli And Harry Kane If They Can’t Work Out How To Win A Trophy… And Quickly
TOTTENHAM fans will be keeping their fingers crossed Saturday’s defeat by Manchester United does not result in them losing more than the FA Cup.
Mauricio Pochettino admitted it might take another manager to take the club to the next level – in two separate post-match interviews, so it was no slip of the tongue.
Getty Images – Getty Dele Alli could quit Tottenham if the club don’t win a trophy soon
And the boss was not the only one in the Spurs camp who seemed to be contemplating leaving the club in the aftermath of their eighth successive semi-final defeat in football’s oldest domestic cup competition.
Dele Alli also voiced his frustration as he reiterated his desire to win trophies… Spurs followers will be hoping it was just the loss talking.
But there is no doubt Pochettino’s stars are reaching the stage – if they have not reached it already – where they have proved they can compete against the best…
They now want to start beating the best in finals and title races.
REUTERS/Eddie Keogh Tottenham stars could opt to leave North London in order to win trophies
Given how professionally competitive and focused these guys are, you can rest assured that if they cannot fulfil their desires at Spurs they will have no problem leaving for a club where they can win medals.
We saw it last season with Kyle Walker, who after nine years without winning a medal at Spurs upped and left for Manchester City where in nine months he had won the Premier League title and Carabao Cup.
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Oh and by moving to the Etihad he also more than doubled his wages and picked up a £5million signing-on fee to boot.
How many of his old Tottenham team-mates will now be looking at how things have worked out for him and will be thinking of doing the same this summer?
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Cm Punk, Stone Cold Steve Austin And Chyna… Wwe Stars Who Fell Out With Vince Mcmahon’s Company
LONGTIME WWE Champion Bruno Sammartino – the company’s biggest star in the 1960s and 70s – passed away last week aged 82.
WWE has rightly celebrated his life and career, but the company wasn’t always on good terms with Sammartino.
Splash News Brunno Sammartino notoriously fell out with WWE after leaving the company
He’s one of several top stars who notoriously fell out with WWE and its chairman Vince McMahon.
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The “Living Legend” was WWE’s longest reigning champion ever, holding the belt for a combined total of 12 years. He was also at odds with the company for decades afterwards.
After leaving WWE in the late 1980s, Bruno became an outspoken critic of the direction Vince McMahon had taken his beloved sport.
Splash News Burno Sammartino did not like the way the business was going under Vince McMahon
WWE WWE owner Vince McMahon posing with the late Bruno Sammartino
He labeled the product as “garbage” and slammed steroid use, Hulk Hogan, and the Attitude Era – especially its top star Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Bruno said: “I didn’t care for him because of his mouth. He was a very, very vulgar individual.”
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Sammartino was known for his integrity and as a defender of wholesome values – it was no surprise that he hated WWE’s then-ultra profane and sexualised product.
He refused a Hall of Fame for several years, saying it would be “hypocritical” of him to accept.
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