Soccer-Morocco dignified in defeat after fourth bid fails

By Timothy Collings ZURICH, May 15 - Morocco may have convinced the world of the excellence of their fourth bid to host the World Cup but still failed to land enough votes when it mattered on Saturday, said disappointed bid leader Saad Kettani. "We faced two juries. One was the jury of the world -- the global jury -- and they knew and understood the reality of our bid. But when we went before the limited jury of just 24 (FIFA executive committee) members, they decided something else." After losing 14-10 to South Africa in the first ballot held by world soccer's governing body to decide the host of the 2010 World Cup, Kettani maintained his and Morocco's dignity in the face of a fourth defeat in the quest to host the 32-team finals. So, too, did his bid team as they filed out of the hall in which the decision was revealed by FIFA president Sepp Blatter amid scenes of wild South African celebrations centred around 85-year-old former president Nelson Mandela. Few of Morocco's bid team showed any disappointment, though Just Fontaine, the Moroccan-born striker who scored a record 13 goals for France in the 1958 finals, quipped: "It was business as usual - and we thought it was about sport. "We had goalscorers, sportsmen and footballers but they had three Nobel Prize winners. So that is what happened. We'll have to try again. But next time, in 24 years', I will not be here." It was difficult not to feel sympathy for Morocco even as Kettani gave a clear vision of his country's future plans. While sources close to their delegation suggested they had been let down by voters from the CONCACAF region, who switched allegiance, Kettani shrugged such thoughts aside. "What is important is not to know where we fell down," he said. "But it is important to know that there has been a competition and that Morocco went into it in a spirit of fair play, that we maintained our dignity to the end and that we respected the decision of the executive committee. BEST WISHES "We wish to send to all our brothers in South Africa our best wishes for a very happy and very good World Cup in 2010. "We're not disappointed at all. We're still convinced, and I'm sure the world is convinced, that is the world that followed the presentations -- the world jury, that the reality of our bid was special," added Kettani. "The World Cup was just a tactical step for us in our global strategy for Vision 2010. This is to be our appointment with the free trade zone for Europe and for America. "We're in the process of setting up our economy to be a competitive economy and with a free society and we did all this as part, within our strategy, of the development of football in Morocco. It is all part of our plan." He added that on any examination of the various criteria -- issues such as security, finance, infrastructure, football heritage or the legacy for Africa -- Morocco had a plan that "was clearly the strongest and the clearest." But, he said, Morocco respected fair play, transparency and professionalism and congratulated South Africa. Fontaine added: "I hope South Africa does a perfect job. They're organising this World Cup for Africa and it matters to us all." Egypt's World Cup bid general coordinator Hisham Azmy was also philosophical after seeing his country's campaign crumble and produce no votes at all. "We expected some votes but in the end we did not have them. If you play a match and you get to the final, it is the same if you lost 4-0 or 1-0. You don't get the trophy. "We're proud of the inspection team's report and we were told we have an excellent presentation. But what does that mean? We got no votes. Yes, we had promises. Of course, we did. But we had 24 promises. You cannot rely on them. It is not votes. "In the end it is about the lobbying and the politics. That is where it is decided."