ABU DHABI // The Club World Cup could return to Abu Dhabi after Fifa confirmed the UAE had expressed an interest in hosting the December event in 2013 and 2014.
The elite club competition, which features the champions from the six continental federations and the champions of the host nation, was staged in the capital in 2009 and 2010 before returning to Japan for this year and next.
“Of course we would like to have it again,” Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi, the president of the Football Association (FA), said during the 2010 tournament here, adding that the FA would await Government backing before moving forward in the bid process.
Earlier in the tournament, Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, had given the Abu Dhabi tournament an emphatic seal of approval.
“We have nothing, nothing, but really nothing to criticise about this competition,” he said, “but only express compliments to the UAE for the hospitality and the facilities they have put forward for players, coaches visitors and spectators.”
Three other nations have indicated an interest in hosting the 2013 and 2014 tournaments: Iran, Morocco and South Africa.
To date, only Japan and Abu Dhabi have staged the tournament. Japan put on the event from 2005 until 2008, and had bid to keep it in 2009 and 2010. Australia also bid for the 2009 and 2010 tournaments that went to Abu Dhabi.
Barcelona won the 2009 event here, defeating Estudiantes of Argentina 2-1 in extra time in the final. Inter Milan won the tournament last December, defeating TP Mazembe of Democratic Republic of Congo 3-0 before 42,174 spectators at the Zayed Sports City Stadium.
One concern Fifa officials had expressed after the 2009 staging of the event was sparse attendance at matches in which Barcelona did not play.
However, attendance in 2010 was up more than 35 per cent from the previous year’s tournament, to 200,251. The numbers were aided by the three-game run of Al Wahda, the Abu Dhabi side, whose games attracted 71,056 fans; games at the same stages the year before had attracted 26,278.
The UAE’s bid book must be submitted by September 30, with a decision expected on October 21.
* Additional reporting by Gary Meenaghan