Spain and Portugal are now joined by Morocco, with the North African country calling the collaboration "unprecedented in football history"
Morocco has announced that it's joining Spain and Portugal's bid to stage the 2030 FIFA World Cup, apparently replacing Ukraine in the trio of potential hosts.
Madrid and Lisbon filed their joint candidacy in 2021, and last October added Kiev to their bid, saying they wanted to "give hope" to the Ukrainians amid the conflict with Russia. Back then, Portuguese Football Federation chief Fernando Gomes explained that the gesture was a way to "contribute through the power of football to the recovery of a country undergoing reconstruction."
However, on Wednesday, Morocco's Sports Minister Chakib Benmoussa read out a message from Moroccan King Mohammed VI in Rwanda's capital Kigali, where FIFA is hosting its 73rd congress.
"The Kingdom of Morocco has decided, together with Spain and Portugal, to present a joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup," the message read.
"This joint bid, which is unprecedented in football history, will bring together Africa and Europe, the northern and southern Mediterranean, and the African, Arab and Euro-Mediterranean worlds," the king said.
The royal message did not mention Ukraine, so it remains unclear whether Kiev has been excused from the bid altogether, or if the application will be expanded to four nations.
When asked to comment on the announcement from Rabat, a spokesman for the Spanish Football Association said the country's football chief will meet with his Portuguese and Moroccan counterparts later on Wednesday.
"The presidents will announce any news regarding the candidacy for the 2030 World Cup in Kigali," the spokesman clarified. He did not mention Ukraine's potential involvement.
The Moroccan football squad made huge waves at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar a few months ago, knocking out Spain and Portugal in the playoffs to become the first African country to reach the semifinals.
Spain is only separated from Morocco by the Strait of Gibraltar, while the distance between Ukraine and the Iberian Peninsula, where both Spain and Portugal are located, is several thousand kilometers.
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The other contenders to host the World Cup in seven years are a joint Latin American bid from Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay, and another transcontinental application from Saudi Arabia, Greece, and Egypt.