The FIFA Club World Cup is heading back to the UAE for the next two years after Japan’s cycle came to an end with the climax of the 2016 edition last month. Words by Gruffudd Owen
The countdown to the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup has begun in earnest for the UAE after Japan passed on the hosting baton at a special ceremony prior to the 2016 final, held last month at the Yokohama International Stadium.
Spanish side Real Madrid’s 4-2 victory over home favourites Kashima Antlers sealed a second Club World Cup title for Los Blancos and brought to an end Japan’s two-year stint as tournament hosts, meaning the focus is now firmly on the UAE in 2017 and 2018.
The country’s first hosting cycle occurred in 2009 and 2010, with both finals taking place at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Speaking at the handover ceremony, Japanese Football Association president Kohzo Tashima praised the decision made by FIFA to bring the competition back to the gulf, expressing his confidence that it would once again deliver.
“The FIFA Club World Cup, the event loved and enjoyed by people around the world, will now be held in the United Arab Emirates for the next two years,” he said.
“It’s been seven years since the UAE last hosted the event and I'm sure the fans in UAE have been awaiting for this event to return.
“We can't wait to see another wonderful club football tournament held in a wonderful stadium and hosted by a wonderful nation.”
The switching process was complete when Tashima presented the ceremonial shirt to UAE 2017 tournament director Aref Al Awani, officially signalling the beginning of the UAE’s preparations.
The seven-team tournament sees the club champions of each of the world’s six football confederations and the host country’s domestic league winners compete for the title.
And with the AFC Asian Cup also heading to the UAE in 2019, the country will now welcome world-class football to its stadia for the next three years in succession – a major boost to its growing reputation within the game.