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Crowd prospects brighten with Wahda's good start

If the size of the crowd for the 3-0 victory over Hekari United is an indication, total attendance in Abu Dhabi could be up more than 25,000 over last year.

When asked what local organisers could do to improve attendance at the 2010 Club World Cup, Chuck Blazer, a Fifa executive committee member, was terse. "Have the home team play better," he said.

So far, Al Wahda have delivered, and if the size of the crowd for the Pro League side's 3-0 victory over Hekari United on Wednesday is an indication, total attendance in Abu Dhabi could be up more than 25,000 on last year.

The crowd for Wahda's opening match was 23,895, more than 9,000 ahead of the number who saw Al Ahli of the Pro League lose to Auckland City of New Zealand at the same stage a year ago.

That defeat eliminated Ahli from the competition. By winning, Wahda are assured at least two more games in this tournament: a quarter-final match tomorrow with Seongnam of South Korea and either a semi-final appearance against Inter Milan on December 15 or a place in the fifth-place game on the same day.

If Wahda get an extra 9,000 fans for the three matches, at the least, in which they play, the chances of the 2010 Club World Cup exceeding the 156,350 total attendance from the 2009 event seem strong.

Ahli's absence beyond opening night last year had a ripple effect in later matches. Auckland City's quarter-final with Atlante was attended by only 7,222 people; the fifth-place match was played in near seclusion, with a crowd count of 4,200.

Wahda, the oldest side in the capital, have a history of big crowds; more than 40,000 saw the team play for the President's Cup at Zayed Sport City in 2000.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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