Saudi Arabia hosting the 2023 Fifa Club World Cup will represent “another important step forward on our journey of transformation in football and as a country”, according to the country’s minister of sports.
Fifa, football’s world governing body, announced on Tuesday night that the kingdom will for the first time stage the seven-team tournament, which is set to take place from December 12-22.
Saudi Arabia represents the sixth tournament host since the competition’s inception in 2000, and becomes the second Gulf country to hold the event following the UAE. The Club World Cup has been staged five times in the Emirates - most recently last year.
The decision, made at the Fifa Council meeting on Tuesday, came three days after the 2022 Club World Cup final, where Real Madrid defeated Al Hilal 5-3. The Riyadh side, the reigning Asian champions, became the first Saudi team to reach the showpiece match.
In a statement following Tuesday's news, Saudi Arabia’s sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, said: “We are honoured and extremely excited to be given the opportunity to welcome the world’s leading football clubs and their fans to Saudi Arabia.
“Many fans will have recently witnessed our ability as a nation to compete at the highest possible level on the pitch. Now we have the chance to prove we are also world-class hosts off it. We look forward to showcasing our genuine love of the game and our desire to be a force for good.”
Prince Abdulaziz continued: “Today is another important step forward on our journey of transformation in football and as a country, and I trust all involved will see for themselves the undeniable progress being made at many different levels.
“We host international sports for the simple reason that we truly believe in the power of sport to inspire our boys and girls, to create new connections and build new relationships. This will mean so much to our people where 70 per cent are under the age of 35 and are absolutely obsessed with football.”
Alongside the Club World Cup, Saudi was confirmed earlier this month as hosts of the 2027 Asian Cup, while the kingdom has bid also to stage the 2026 Women’s Asian Cup.
Meanwhile, the men’s national team registered one of the greatest shocks in World Cup history at the recent finals in Qatar, where they defeated eventual champions Argentina 2-1. The women’s senior team, established in 2021, last month won their first international tournament.
Yasser Al Misehal, president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, said in Tuesday's accompanying statement: “The Fifa Club World Cup is a special competition that has delivered incredible moments.
"Not only has it gifted many memories to millions across the globe, but the tournament has created new international rivalries and forged new friendships within the game. We thank Fifa for their trust in us to deliver an exceptional edition of the event.
“Saudi football is going through an unprecedented of growth; there is fresh energy and sense of optimism thanks to a clear strategy across all areas of the game.
“The future is bright, and this tournament is another highlight to look forward to especially when you consider some of the mouth-watering fixtures and players who might take part.”