A delegation from the European football champions Barcelona visited the capital's Zayed Sports City Stadium yesterday, three months ahead of Fifa Club World Cup UAE 2009, and said they were impressed by what they saw. The team will play in the UAE for the first time in December, when the tournament begins. The competition pits seven club sides from the six continental confederations. The eventual champions will win US$5 million (Dh18.4m).
"We are really impressed by what we have seen today, both in terms of the playing and training facilities, and the tremendous hospitality shown to us by the people of the UAE," Albert Perrin, a member of FC Barcelona's board, said in a release. "December promises to be an exciting month of football here, and we sincerely hope that the next time we leave the UAE, it will be as Club World Champions."
Mr Perrin, who is responsible for Uefa and Fifa matters, said that since qualifying in May for the tournament, the team had been eager to visit the UAE capital to meet tournament organisers and inspect the pitch. The tournament's eight matches will be split between Zayed Sports City Stadium and Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. The delegation also toured hotel and training facilities. The visiting group included the club's head of international operations, Stephen Dawson, and travel manager Antoni Moline.
Mohammed Ibrahim al Mahmood, general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, expressed pleasure at hosting the delegation and showing off "the world-class facilities" being prepared for the competition, which runs from December 9 to 19. "We are looking forward to welcoming the club's players, staff and fans to the region when the tournament kicks off in December," he said. "FC Barcelona enjoys a significant support base here in the UAE, so we know they will feel right at home."