President Donald Trump is talking soccer again. This time, he’s not breaking FIFA rules, nor is he explicitly threatening countries who don’t support the North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup.
But he is, depending on how you read his latest statement, implicitly threatening those countries. And he’s certainly not helping bring the World Cup to the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Trump, speaking at a joint news conference with Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari at the White House on Monday, said that “we” – presumably meaning the U.S. government – would be “watching very closely” to see which countries support the United Bid.
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) April 30, 2018
Trump spoke alongside Buhari after meeting with the Nigerian leader. Immediately after discussing U.S. foreign trade, he said:
“I hope all African countries and countries throughout the world, that we also will be supporting you, and that they will likewise support us in our bid along with Canada and Mexico for the 2026 World Cup. We will be watching very closely, and any help they could give us in that bid, we would appreciate.”
The statement is a bit incoherent and vague, but at the very least, Trump is again asking for support for the bid.
Trump brought up the bid for the first time last week in a tweet that appeared to threaten political repercussions for countries that don’t vote for the United Bid:
The U.S. has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup. It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don’t support us (including at the United Nations)?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2018
What Trump seems to misunderstand is that countries’ governments have no say in the June 13 vote that will award the 2026 tournament to either North America or Morocco. The vote is in the hands of FIFA’s member associations – 207 national soccer federations around the world. Any involvement from governments constitutes “political interference,” which is prohibited by FIFA rules.
FIFA issued a statement in the wake of Trump’s tweet that pointed to the ethics guidelines governing the bidding process:
“As a general rule, we cannot comment on specific statements in connection with the bidding process. We can only refer to the FIFA Regulations for the selection of the venue for the final competition of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, and in particular to the Bid Rules of Conduct incorporated therein.”
Trump is tip-toeing right on the periphery of those guidelines.
And then after asking for support from African countries – whom he infamously called “shithole countries,” and who will almost certainly support Morocco’s bid – he moved right on to talking about keeping immigrants out of the U.S., and refused to apologize for statements denigrating immigrants and Muslims:
Trump is asked about his statements during his campaign denigrating immigrants and Muslims, and would he possibly apologize and could that help his position in the court cases:
“There’s nothing to apologize for.”
— S.V. Dáte (@svdate) April 30, 2018
Trump, as explained last week, is hurting the North American bid much more than he is helping it. For the sake of the bid, the best thing he can do is simply stop talking about it.
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