Donald Trump hurt U.S.-led World Cup bid more than helped - Germany chief
The policies and comments of United States President Donald Trump "hurt" the U.S.-led bid to host the 2026 World Cup but were ultimately not enough to sway FIFA voters, Germany federation president Richard Grindel said after Wednesday's vote.
The joint bid of the U.S., Canada and Mexico ended up winning by more than double Morocco's tally -- 134 to 65 -- in a decision that was not as close as the vote appeared to be in recent months.
There had been some concern that outside political factors -- including the inflammatory nature of some of President Trump's comments -- could affect the voting results, but Grindel said he thought they were not the deciding factor as each FIFA member logged its vote at the organisation's Congress in Moscow.
"Trump's comments hurt the bid more than they helped it," Grindel said. "I criticised it. But the big majority shows that it had no influence."
Trump's push for travel restrictions to the U.S. as well as negative comments toward poorer countries had already presented obstacles when in May the president, in publicly backing the bid, questioned why the U.S. should support other countries who might lobby against the push for the World Cup.
Trump congratulated the successful bid in a tweet on Wednesday:
The U.S., together with Mexico and Canada, just got the World Cup. Congratulations - a great deal of hard work!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
Grindel said he was pleased to see that the voters paid attention to FIFA's evaluation reports on the bids -- which called Morocco "high-risk" -- and followed rules that prohibit governments from deciding how their football federations operate.
"The clear vote is good for sports. I spoke to a lot of colleagues from other countries, not only from Europe. And I don't know anyone who said that their government influenced the vote," he said. "But, of course, just giving the impression that it could have made a difference is bad.
"Like I said, that's why I am delighted with the clear vote. It was made on the basis of the evaluation report, and not because of exertion of influence."
Government representatives of Caribbean nations Dominica and St. Lucia had made news in March by offering support to Morocco, but their federations backed the United bid, which swept CONCACAF (Central America and the Caribbean) and Oceania's 11 votes.
North America ended up winning 41 of 55 votes from European confederation UEFA, despite a number of notable footballing countries including France and Netherlands picking Morocco. Russia ultimately picked the U.S.-led bid despite federation officials earlier backing Morocco.
"Football is separate from politics," said Alexander Alayev, acting president of the Russian federation. "Morocco prepared a very strong and interesting bid, but the unified bid was much stronger in all aspects."
Among the biggest surprises was that Brazil voted for Morocco, breaking with a South American bloc that had pledged to support the winning North American bid.
"[The U.S. and Mexico] have already hosted a World Cup, no?" Brazil federation president Coronel Nunes told reporters after the vote. "Morocco has never been to a World Cup. This was a chance for them."
Nunes also said he wasn't aware that the votes would be made public under FIFA's new system following multiple corruption investigations following the 2010 awarding of this month's tournament in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The other nine CONMEBOL countries -- Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Venezuela -- all voted for the U.S.-led bid as planned.
The United bid also picked up 11 of the 54 votes from Africa, where Morroco's disputed border with Western Sahara had proven divisive.
"The United bid was strong and if it was just the United States, I think Morocco would have beaten them," said Cameroon federation official Kevin Njomo, whose country voted for Morocco. "People have a soft spot for Mexico, especially looking at Mexico as a little bit under-developed and giving them a chance. Canada is a good tourist destination."
The United bid also garnered 33 of 46 votes from Asia, though China, Qatar and North Korea -- despite the recent summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un -- backed Morocco.
Only Iran opted for the third option on the table -- neither of the bids -- while Cuba, Slovenia and Spain all abstained from voting.
U.S. territories Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were removed from the process, but American Samoa cast a vote for the North American bid.
ESPN FC's Stephen Uersfeld and Sam Borden contributed to the report.