Taking the 2026 World Cup to Africa could help stem the tide of emigration from the continent, claims Confederation of African Football (Caf) president Ahmad.
The Malagasy, who took charge of Caf last year, was speaking ahead of Wednesday’s decisive vote as Morocco look to beat off a triple bid from Canada, Mexico and the United States.
“The situation now (is that) all the young people in Africa want to go outside the continent,” Ahmad told BBC Sport.
“I believe that if we have this World Cup, and eight years to prepare it, most of them will want to stay in the continent because it keeps some hope in the continent.”
“We need the hope that football can bring to the continent. When I was elected, I said that football was not only a game – it means many things for us in Africa.”
Fifa’s 200-plus members will vote in the Russian capital Moscow on whether to back the Moroccan or North American bid, although there is the slim possibility the tournament could go elsewhere if neither bid receives enough votes.
Ahmad, who was swift to back Morocco’s campaign after it was launched last August, found his comments echoed by Senegal’s 2002 World Cup star El Hadji Diouf.
“Morocco’s is the bid of hope and it can be a solution for the young people who always want to go to Europe to find a job – Morocco is going to open its doors,” said the Morocco 2026 Bid ambassador.
Diouf expressed his hope that Africa would show unity by voting en masse for the Moroccan bid, but that is unlikely with several nations set to back the North American vote.
Liberia says it will vote for the ‘United 2026′ bid to maintain its long-standing relations with the United States, while South Africa is also set to vote for the triple bid.
Perhaps more concerning for Morocco’s hopes of victory is that several countries in southern Africa will also vote against it.
One FA representative, who wished to remain anonymous, said his country would be voting against Morocco in protest at the North Africans’ long-standing annexation of Western Sahara.
Western Sahara is a disputed territory based south of Morocco which was annexed by the latter after Spain withdrew from its former colony in 1975.
It is yet another reminder of how Wednesday’s vote will have little to do with football and a great deal to do with international politics.
“It is extremely difficult – sometimes impossible – to separate football from politics,” Liberia FA president Musa Bility told BBC Sport.
“In fact, my experience is that football politics are much more complicated than normal politics.”
The victor is set to be announced shortly after 1000 GMT.