The inclusion of Ukraine in the Iberian candidacy of Spain and Portugal to organize the 2030 World Cup is in the air just four months after its annexation to the project was announced at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon. The suspension, only in his country, of Andriy Pavelko, president of Ukrainian football, is the main argument put forward by the Spanish Football Federation to quarantine participation in the project of the former Soviet republic. Pavelko is being investigated in Ukraine for overcharging the construction of artificial grass pitches made with grant money.
“Ukraine’s difficulties in the candidacy lie in government interference with the president of the federation. It is an exclusive issue of internal governance and government interference. The federations of Portugal and Spain have no doubt that the interference will cease and Ukraine will be part of the candidacy ”, they explain from the federation. According to this reasoning, even the candidacy of Spain could be in danger if Luis Rubiales were convicted and disqualified for some of the reasons for which he is being investigated in the case of the supercopafiles. Historically, both UEFA and FIFA threatened states that interfered in the affairs of their member associations. The Government of Volodímir Zelenski already knows that as long as Pavelko continues to be suspended, the options for the Ukraine to host the World Cup are reduced.
From the federation they stress that the Spanish and Portuguese governments are outside the possible exclusion of Ukraine: “The conformation of the candidacy is an exclusive work of the football federations of Portugal and Spain in which the governments of both countries do not intervene nor have they made any decision in this regard. Both governments understand that these are exclusive decisions of the federations without government interference or participation. Both the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, and the Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa, shared a joint message on their social networks when Ukraine’s entry into the candidacy was made official on October 5. “We have already demonstrated our ability to organize top-level events. Spain and Portugal are prepared to host, together with Ukraine, the 2030 Soccer World Cup. We want a championship for peace, to show the best of sport, but also the best values of Europe”, both presidents wrote. With Russia’s offensive on Ukraine still in full swing, politically it would not be easy to justify the possible exclusion of the former Soviet republic from the Iberian candidacy.
Shortly after Pavelko’s suspension was known, this newspaper asked FIFA’s communication department whether this could be a reason to eliminate Ukraine from the candidacy and the answer was negative. The Ukrainian soccer leader has not been suspended for the moment by UEFA, of which he is a member of its Executive Committee, and it is not ruled out that he will be present on March 16 at the FIFA congress in Kigali (Rwanda), that has not sanctioned him either. In principle, there would be no legal impediment for Ukraine to continue in the Spanish and Portuguese candidacy, among other things because the specifications for presenting the candidacies will not be made public until June. At the time, the entry of Ukraine into the Iberian candidacy was interpreted as a definitive coup for the organization of the World Cup to fall on Spanish and Portuguese territory and not on the South American or still unofficial option, but yes very thriving, from Saudi Arabia, which would also include Egypt and Greece.
The organizing venue for the World Cup will be designated by a vote of all the federations that make up FIFA (211) in the spring of 2024. Normally, each continental confederation votes as a block and Saudi Arabia would add 101 exit votes only among Africa ( 54) and Asia (47). Spain and Portugal had a lot of work in advance, which had given them a clear advantage over their competitors. Now they have perceived the power of the Saudi Arabian candidacy and this may precipitate the geopolitical battle that determines the results of the votes to choose the venues for the World Cup. Both federations, according to the Spanish one, have resumed the path of Morocco, which were in the embryonic project, in an attempt to counteract the powerful Saudi candidacy by dividing the African vote. At least, according to federative sources, with the inclusion of the Alaouite kingdom, it is intended to dissuade Saudi Arabia from entering the race to organize the 2030 World Cup and postpone it for four years later. Sources familiar with the status of the candidacies do not rule out that the Saudis will end up opting for the 2034 World Cup. From the federation they insist on clarifying that “the possible entry of Morocco replaces Ukraine. They are completely different and independent actions.”
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