x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Football festival 'on course'

The chairman of the organising committee of the Club World Cup, Chuck Blazer, is "very impressed" with the two stadiums that will host the football tournament.

Chuck Blazer heads the committee for the Club World Cup which will be held in the capital later this year.
Chuck Blazer heads the committee for the Club World Cup which will be held in the capital later this year.

The chairman of the organising committee of the Club World Cup, Chuck Blazer, is "very impressed" with the two stadiums that will host the international football tournament in December. Mr Blazer, a member of the executive committee of football's world governing body Fifa, visited the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium and Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi this week.

"The refurbishment work is well on course," he said. "There is an energy and excitement among the organising committee, as well as the Government here." Seating capacity is being increased at both stadiums. At the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, home of Al Jazira, a second tier is being added that will raise its capacity from 15,000 to 42,000. Player dressing rooms are being refurbished at Zayed Stadium, which will hold 45,000.

The tournament, which has been staged in Japan for the past four years, will be held in the Middle East for the first time. The competition will begin on December 9 when the UAE champions Al Ahli meet Auckland City, winners of the Oceania Champions League. Seven teams will take part: the six continental champions and Ahli, who qualified by winning last season's Pro League. The biggest draws will be Barcelona, winners of the European Champions League, and Estudiantes de la Plata of Argentina, the Copa Libertadores champions.

"We want the best club football to be played in the world at this tournament," Mr Blazer said. "Barcelona have a fascinating style of play and it will be wonderful to see them over here." The competition will conclude at Zayed Stadium on December 19. The UAE won the right to stage the tournament for two years, beating Japan and Australia in the bidding process. "We looked at each on their individual merits, but fortunately the winning bid came from here. I think it will work out fine," Mr Blazer said. "It is important to spread football. The fact that we are able to bring the tournament to the Middle East is excellent for the development of the sport. I feel that there is a willingness to invest in football here."

Mr Blazer would not be drawn into a discussion on the long-term future of the tournament, which returns to Japan for 2011 and 2012. Tickets range from Dh10 to Dh300 and are available at www.FIFA.com/uae2009 or by calling 800 kick (5425) in the UAE. The tournament is one of the first sporting events in the capital to sell tickets for specific seats. It is one of several major events being held in the UAE over winter.

The Dubai World Championship, featuring the 60 top golfers on the European Tour, will be held at Jumeirah Estates in October. It will be followed by the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November, the second Capitala World Tennis Championships in January and European Tour golf tournaments in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The Meydan course will open in time for the Dubai World Cup, the richest horse race in the world, and there are talks of bringing a cricket series between Pakistan and New Zealand to the country.


* The National