Some of the world’s greatest football talent is coming to the capital and it’s time for football fever to take over
The latter, who is the all-time leading goal scorer for Real Madrid, is one of the greatest to ever play the game, and now he’s coming to the capital for the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup.
The international club competition is being held in the capital after successful spells in 2009 and 2010, when FC Barcelona and Inter Milan won the tournament, respectively.
It’ll be back too, with the 2018 edition scheduled to return next December.
What is the FIFA Club World Cup?
The annual competition, launched in 2000, sees the champions of six continental club tournaments go head to head to be named the best club side in the world.
For the 18th instalment of the knockout competition, being held this year in the
UAE, eight matches will be played including third- and fifth-placed playoffs between eliminated sides.
This year, reigning champions Real Madrid will be looking to win the tournament for the third time, equalling the record of their national rivals FC Barcelona, who last won the tournament in 2015 against Argentina’s River Plate. But who stands in their way?
This year, the seven clubs that will take part in the tournament are Spanish champions Real Madrid CF, Mexico’s CDF Pachuca, Morocco’s Wydad Athletic Club, Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds, New Zealand’s Auckland City FC, Brazil’s Grêmio FBPA and the UAE’s representative, Al Jazira Club.
Needing little introduction, Real Madrid are two-time winners of the FIFA Club World Cup, Spanish champions and UEFA Champions League record holders, with 12 titles to their name.
Auckland City hold the record for the number of times a club has participated in the FIFA Club World Cup, taking part in nine tournaments, including seven years in a row from 2011 to the current season.
Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds come into the tournament having experienced it in 2007 where they finished in third place.
CDF Pachuca have appeared at the tournament on three occasions, most recently in 2010 in Abu Dhabi, when they were eliminated in the second round.
Al Jazira Club, Grêmio and Wydad Athletic Club are all tournament debutants and
will be looking to prove their worth in their first outings.
The first round will see Al Jazira Club play Auckland City FC for a chance to progress to play Urawa Red Diamonds in the second round. The second round will also see CDF Pachuca play Wydad Athletic Club.
The winner of these matches will progress to the semi-final stage to face either Copa Libertadores winners Grêmio or cup favourites Real Madrid.
The final will be contested by the two semi-final winners on 16th December, while a third-placed playoff will also be held between the losing semi-final sides.
A lasting legacy
Helping to attract some of the best talent and the return of the FIFA Club World Cup to Abu Dhabi, work has been going on behind the scenes to develop the footballing infrastructure in the home nation.
With world-class facilities and a passionate local fan base, a touring mobile road show has been travelling across the country to encourage the younger generation to take an interest in football, participate in football-related skill games and generate an atmosphere ahead of the big kick-off.
What’s more, the FIFA Club World Cup 2017 Youth Leadership Programme toured before selecting 38 boys and girls to give them the opportunity to play a part in matches as official flag bearers or ball carriers.
But the impact of the tournament is set to last long after the final whistle sounds.
UAE women’s national team assistant coach, Houriya al Taheri, the first Arab woman to earn a FIFA coaching licence, believes that tournaments like the FIFA Club World Cup being held in the UAE will help inspire youth, and women in particular, to take up football.
“These events help empower the next generation to take up the sport, participate and learn from the world’s best,” she says.
“[The] future is bright for the next generation of female football players in the UAE.
“Where we are today as the UAE women’s national football team is the culmination of all the efforts of government organisations in the country to propel women’s football at all levels.
“Abu Dhabi continuously strives to create equal opportunities for men and women in the sporting arena through bringing prestigious world-class events and some of the world’s most inspiring athletes to the capital.”
“We are hoping to produce some remarkable performances at this year’s FIFA Club World Cup,” Al Jazira defender Mohamed Al Attas says. “The tournament is an important one for us as players, as we are playing on home soil and will have millions around the world watching us.”
Appearing in the competition for the very first time, it’s a dream come true for many of the players who are looking to pit themselves against the best and serve the UAE
“We must be confident as we are not just representing Al Jazira, but also the great nation of the UAE,” adds Mohamed. “We have to work hard and I hope we have the opportunity to participate in the tournament next year, too.
Three to watch
With each edition, some of the world’s best take part in the tournament and this time it’s no different. Here are three of the cup’s top players to look out for…
Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid
Real Madrid’s forward is considered one the greatest to ever play the game with power, skill and undeniable confidence in his ability. Need we say more? His temper can sometimes get the better of him but his class is unquestionable.
Arthur Melo – Grêmio
This 21-year-old Brazilian has enjoyed a breakthrough season at Grêmio and is already being linked to a move to FC Barcelona. The young midfielder will be looking to catch the eye of Brazil coach Tite ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup so keep an eye out for him.
Ali Mabkhout – Al Jazira Club
The Emirati striker is one of Al Jazira Club’s longest-serving players and, if the hometown club are to progress in the tournament, he could play a big part. The UAE national team player has an eye for a goal and could end up the top scorer for the home side.
Matches 2 and 3: 9th December: Zayed Sports City Stadium, Saif Ghubash Street. Game one 5pm, game two 8.30pm
Semi final one: 12th December. Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain. 9pm
Semi-final two: 13th December. Zayed Sports City Stadium. 9pm
Final: 16th December, Zayed Sports City Stadium. 9pm.
For more information and tickets, visit: fifa.com/clubworldcup
WORDS Colin Armstrong