LONDON: The Club World Cup gets underway on Wednesday in the UAE, with considerable worldwide interest this year. Following two previous victories with Ronaldo (below), Real Madrid are chasing a third successive title to match their Champions League treble. The Spanish giants are likely to face either River Plate or Boca Juniors from Argentina in the final on Dec. 22, a match that promises to be a mouthwatering spectacle.
The tournament, a simple concept of bringing the continental champions from around the world to decide the best club side on the planet, has struggled to entice football fans or TV companies.
Granted, it got off to a shaky start. In 2000, Corinthians took the title on home soil, but after the collapse of FIFA’s marketing partner ISL, the following year’s edition was canceled. The tournament was not held again until 2005. Since then there has been a mix of winners from Europe and South America. Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad have earned a respectable fourth place in the past and Egypt’s Al-Ahly came third in 2006.
By hosting the tournaments away from the traditional European and South American power bases — Japan, Morocco and the UAE — FIFA is fulfilling its mandate of making football a global game. Fans who have no chance of seeing European superstars or talented sides from South America can see their heroes in action. The Club World Cup might never supersede the Champions League or Copa Libertadores, but it has grown in stature and has become a trophy worth winning.