FIFA Club World Cup Kicks Off; United Arab Emirates Sets New Standards

(WFI) As the sixth edition of the tournament kicks off, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke admits the competition is unlikely to be staged in Europe for some years to come.

I
don’t think Europe is ready to host the Club World Cup yet, because
there are already too many matches there,” he told a press conference on the eve of the competition in the United Arab Emirates.

“Apart from the fact that the
UAE bid was the best, we’re in any case convinced that interest in the
tournament here and in other regions of the world is rather greater
than it would be if we held it in Europe.”

After Tokyo’s hosting of the 2008 edition, Valcke revealed that Abu Dhabi was ready, adding “we know the decision to
move this World Cup to the UAE was the right one”. 

Chuck Blazer, chairman of the organizing committee for the
FIFA Club World Cup 2009, said: “
We’re extremely satisfied with the preparations and the
conditions here locally. I’m really looking forward to the opening
match, as the tournament promises to be a very special event.”

He praised Mohammed
Khalfan Al-Rumaithi, president of the UAE FA, for his team’s organizing efforts.

Blazer added: “FIFA’s
requirements and standards become more and more demanding with every
passing year. The tournament here in Abu Dhabi is already setting new standards
for next year’s Club World Cup, and for other FIFA tournaments in the
future.”

Al-Rumaithi told reporters the stadiums were ready for the tournament, and ticket
sales have gone very well. Both semi-finals and the final are already
sold out.

“The clubs
will give it their best shot on the field, and the fans will make it a
great atmosphere in the stands. We’re looking forward to the tournament,” he said.

The tournament kicks off Wednesday at Mohammed Ben Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi will also host the tournament next year.

Competition begins with Al Ahli FC of the host country facing Oceania champions Auckland City. Few tickets remain for the match that starts at 8:00 p.m. local time at Mohammed Ben Zayed Stadium.

“We’ve tried to prepare the players psychologically and mentally for this tournament,” said Al Ahli coach Mahdi Redha.

“They have a massive incentive as this is the first time the tournament has been held in the UAE. Playing in this competition is very important for us because we aren’t just representing Al Ahli but the whole of the UAE and we want to show off the high standard of football in the country.”

The seven-team tournament will conclude on Dec. 19 with the final at Zayed Sports City Stadium.

European teams have captured championship honors the last two years after Brazilian clubs won the first three FIFA Club World Cups. A.C. Milan won the 2007 edition and Manchester United beat Liga de Quito of Ecuador 1-0 in the final last year in Yokohama, Japan.

The seven teams taking part in this year’s competition are: Al Ahli FC, Atlante Futbol Club, Auckland City FC, Club Estudiantes de La Plata, FC Barcelona, Pohang Steelers FC and TP Mazembe.

Barcelona are the favorites after the club easily captured the Spanish league title. The La Liga giants and Club Estudiantes de La Plata have spots in the semi-finals after receiving byes.

Written by Sam Steinberg
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