Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, president of the Football Association, said the UAE’s reputation for staging major international events was a key factor in Abu Dhabi being granted the right to host the Fifa Club World Cup.
The capital was confirmed as tournament hosts on Wednesday by football’s world governing body, following Japan’s decision last month to withdraw citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Although no date for the event has been confirmed, February seems at present to provide the most suitable slot. On Wednesday, Fifa said simply the postponed tournament would be played “in early 2022”.
Abu Dhabi has staged the Club World Cup four times before, in 2009, 2010, 2017 and 2018. The next edition will feature 2020/21 Uefa Champions League winners Chelsea and five other continental club champions, as well as Al Jazira, the current UAE champions.
In a statement released by the FA, Sheikh Rashid said "the international sports community considers the UAE the capital of international sports”, and thanked the country’s leadership for providing the appropriate environment for hosting prominent global events.
"The UAE, with the grace of God and thanks to its wise leadership, has gained the confidence of international institutions and bodies,” Sheikh Rashid said. “The country is a pioneer and ready to host many general and sports world events. A good proof of that is the brilliant success that Expo 2020 Dubai has achieved.”
Sheikh Rashid highlighted the UAE’s infrastructure, sports facilities and hospitality as reason for Abu Dhabi being awarded the Club World Cup, as well as its diverse population. The UAE is said to be home to more than 200 nationalities.
“The experiences gained by the sons and daughters of the UAE have become extensive in the field of organising world events, and the volunteers in our country love to work in major sports events,” Sheikh Rashid said. “They are the vital artery for creativity, as they recorded a remarkable presence in the previous tournaments hosted by the state.”
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 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.
Sheikh Rashid said: “This hosting will grant Al Jazira team, the champion of the professional league competition for the 2020/21 season, the opportunity to participate in this tournament, which includes great clubs. This is important as it helps improve our teams and players.”
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. Three other slots remain on offer, including the winner of next month’s Asian Champions League final between Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal and South Korea’s Pohang Steelers.