x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 September 2017

Signing off with success at the Club World Cup

Fifa and fans are left impressed while FA say they will consider bidding for 2013 event if they are backed by the Government.

Javier Zanetti, the Inter Milan captain, holds the Club World Cup trophy as the players perform a lap of honour around Zayed Sports City.
Javier Zanetti, the Inter Milan captain, holds the Club World Cup trophy as the players perform a lap of honour around Zayed Sports City.

ABU DHABI // As supporters and football clubs from distant lands streamed to the airports yesterday, local officials considered the pursuit of a third Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.

Fans here could be excused for having acquired a taste for full-blooded football contested by the world's continental champions.

The UAE has had 11 days of it last December and this, and seen two of the world's most-decorated sides, Barcelona and Inter Milan, celebrate hard-won championships at Zayed Sports City.

Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi, the president of the Football Association, made clear he would like to see the Fifa event return at the earliest opportunity, in 2013, after Japan hosts the next two tournaments.

"Of course we would like to have it again," he said. "But we first must have instructions from the Government. We must be sure of Government support before we submit a bid."

Jerome Valcke, the Fifa secretary general, said all 208 national associations in the organisation would be invited next year to bid for the 2013 event, with a decision to be made in 2012.

Abu Dhabi and the UAE were hailed by Fifa officials for having improved this year on the 2009 event, itself considered a success.

"We have nothing, nothing, but really nothing to criticise about this competition," Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, said earlier this week.

Chuck Blazer, director of the organising committee and a member of the Fifa executive committee, said the "small bumps" of 2009 had been eliminated in the second staging, calling it "an excellently organised tournament".

One concern Fifa had identified after the 2009 event here was attendances, which totalled 156,350, or less than half what it had been in Japan in 2008.

However, attendances for the 2010 event climbed 35.6 per cent to 200,251, and electronic ticketing was cited as a reason behind the increase.

The three-game appearance of Al Wahda, the Pro League champions, also appeared to have an impact; 71,056 saw their three games, compared to 26,278 for games at similar stages a year ago.

A cumulative television audience of 70.6 million people saw the 2009 event, according to figures provided by Fifa, and the number was expected to be higher this year.

Foreign footballers and fans often cited warm temperatures as a major plus for the Abu Dhabi tournaments; the sides this year from Korea and Italy in particular escaped frigid winter weather.

The 2010 event also boasted one of the largest mass migrations by a club side's fans in the history of football. The Brazilian side Internacional were followed more than 12,000km by an estimated 7,000 supporters from the Porto Alegre club.

If the 2009 tournament is remembered for the brilliance of Barcelona and Lionel Messi, 2010 may be recalled for the historic surge to the final by the African club TP Mazembe, the first team from outside Europe and South America to play for the championship.

Mazembe's fans also gained attention for their brass band, their singing and dancing and their tribal dress.

Such memories, as well as hotly contested football, may well prompt officials in the capital to look to recreate the experience in 2013.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae