Bunmi Jinadu, a senior advisor for the Baltimore-Maryland 2026 FIFA World Cup bid, recently returned from the Africa Cup of Nations as he travelled to Cameroon to learn the best practices for major football event delivery.
Baltimore-Maryland is one of the final 17 United States destinations in the running to host matches for the event in four years’ time, which is due to be staged alongside Mexico and Canada.
“The thing I have learned is how best to welcome African nations to our region,” Jinadu told insidethegames.
“We want to welcome cultures from around the world.”
Jinadu liased with FIFA, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the local Organising Committee in an attempt to, not only learn, but prove Baltimore-Maryland’s credentials to be selected as a host city in 2026.
“He’s there to show that we’re open to learning,” said Terry Hasseltine, Baltimore-Maryland 2026 President, to insidethegames.
“We’re receptive to different ways of bringing the games to different communities, and that we want to do exchanges, whether they’re cultural, whether through commerce or economics, or through learning opportunities in creating dialogues in growth opportunities and creating capacity for each part of what’s involved with international football development, and him being on the ground there in Cameroon is just a way for us to extend our identity and legacy.
“It’s really at the core of what our bid has always been about, we see the impact of our bid living well beyond 2026 because we’re really looking at the fundamental footprint of creating a better place to live work and play for the next generation of citizens of the state of Maryland.
“And we think the beautiful game and going after the World Cup creates an opportunity to take these programmes now during the bid process and elevating them so that when we get awarded the opportunity, we can take them to a whole new level, and that the legacy we leave behind will last 10, 15, 20 years after hosting the World Cup.”
Jinadu was the only representative from a World Cup bid city at AFCON in a move that was hoped to give Baltimore-Maryland an advantage over its competitors.
“The slogan for the North American bid was ‘Together as One’, so together we are as one for the footballing family, we are together with CAF, we are together with FIFA and we are together in building legacies for FIFA and the football communities around the world,” said Jinadu.
“It will definitely give us an edge.”
“I think it provides a way to show FIFA and others that we’re really serious about being a host candidate city, we’re really serious about wanting to host the World Cup in 2026,” said Hasseltine.
Washington D.C. is another bid city, but its stadium has thrust the bid into jeopardy.
A FIFA delegation toured the FedEx Field but was left with major concerns about its structure and amenities.
As a result, it is thought that the capital will approach Baltimore-Maryland in an attempt to combine bids.
“We’re receptive to whatever direction FIFA and US Soccer determine our bids need to take,” said Hasseltine.
Washington D.C. could join forces with Baltimore-Maryland 2026 after FIFA’s negative review of FedEx Field ©Getty Images
“Right now, we stand independent of one another.
“But logistically, our footprint could warrant the opportunity to merge the two opportunities, the question is going to come down to what falls in our portfolio of responsibility, and what would potentially fall in their portfolio of responsibility.
“And then how do we orchestrate to make sure that the synergies of our legacy plan and the synergy of the things that we’re already doing as part of the bid, stay very relevant and very important.
“If we can create a bigger footprint, and if that brings the nation’s capital into that portfolio of new opportunity, we’re always going to listen, and we’re going to be receptive to the idea.
“However, it’s going to come down to how receptive the other partner is to the immersion of those opportunities.
“And like I said, we think it’s a FIFA/US Soccer determination and not a Baltimore or DC determination.”
Originally, 45 cities in the US, Canada and Mexico competed to become a candidate host city.
The number has since been whittled down to 23 before a final 16 are selected.
The US currently has 17 candidates but only 10 will be selected as hosts for the final tournament.