Abu Dhabi to host 2021 Fifa Club World Cup starring Chelsea, Al Jazira and five more

Tournament, which was set to take place in Japan, will be held in UAE capital at the beginning of next year

Chelsea's Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta (C) celebrates with the trophy after winning the UEFA Champions League final football match at the Dragao stadium in Porto on May 29, 2021.  / AFP / POOL / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU
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Abu Dhabi has been confirmed as host of the 2021 Fifa Club World Cup.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino announced the news at the world governing body’s council meeting on Wednesday. The 2021 tournament was originally set to take place in Japan in December, but the Japan Football Association withdrew last month citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

No new date for the Abu Dhabi competition has been confirmed, although The National understands that a slot in February is under consideration.

The UAE has previously staged the Club World Cup four times, with Abu Dhabi hosting in 2009, 2010, 2017 and 2018. The 2021 tournament will feature Chelsea and five other continental club champions, as well as Al Jazira, the current UAE champions.

On Wednesday, Infantino said: “The council endorsed a meeting, a global summit meeting to take place in December this year with the aim of providing a presentation to all 211 member nations about the future of football, men’s football, women’s football, youth football, on 20 December.

“It was decided that the Club World Cup 2021 will be played in early 2022 — the exact dates are still to be confirmed — but after the withdrawal of Japan because of the pandemic, the host will be the United Arab Emirates, the UAE, who have hosted this event already a few times as you know.”

Chelsea qualify for the Club World Cup as reigning European champions, alongside African counterparts Al Ahly of Egypt, and Oceanic champions Auckland City of New Zealand. Jazira, who captured last season’s Arabian Gulf League — the domestic competition has since been renamed the Adnoc Pro League — will contest the event for the second time.

The Abu Dhabi club, who clinched the UAE championship last season for a third time in their history, reached the Club World Cup semi-final in their only other appearance, in 2017, where they were defeated 2-1 by eventual winners Real Madrid.

Madrid went on to lift the title again the following year to become the outright record holders, with four. Barcelona and Inter Milan represent the other previous winners in the UAE, in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Aref Hamad Al Awani, general secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said: “We are absolutely delighted to host the Fifa Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi for the fifth time. It goes without saying the competition brings both the fan-favourite clubs and players from around the world.

“This is awesome and a tremendous honour for us. We would like to thank Fifa for the confidence and faith they have on us, based on the past successes of playing host to this immensely popular competition.

“We remain single-minded in our commitment to bringing world-class sports events to Abu Dhabi and making the UAE a central hub for sporting events.”

Al Awani added: “It is of the utmost importance to us to offer a safe environment for the event, especially after successfully hosting world-class sporting events that received praise for the organisation and for the best Covid protocols.

“We welcome fans to the Club World Cup with our traditional Arabic hospitality, state-of-the-art infrastructure and stadiums, with world-class travel and leisure facilities.”

The 2017 and 2018 competitions were played at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi and the Hazza in Zayed Stadium in Al Ain. Al Ahli, Al Wahda and Al Ain have all represented the UAE at the Club World Cup.

Updated: October 21, 2021, 12:03 PM