The first FIFA Club World Championship kicks off in Brazil on Wednesday and eight clubs from around the world will be competing to see their name the first to be inscribed on the new silver trophy.
Many have put European Champions Manchester United into the role of favourites but the English side, the richest in the world, will face severe opposition from Real Madrid, Brazilian clubs Vasco da Gama and Corinthians, Nexaca from Mexico, Al-Nassr of Saudi Arabia, Raja Casablanca and South Melbourne.
The 14-match tournament starts in the Morumbi Stadium in Sao Paulo on Wednesday and reaches its final in Rio de Janeiro’s gigantic Maracana Stadium on Friday 14 January. The team to lift the new trophy will earn USD. 6 million, while even the four teams eliminated in the first round pick up USD. 2.5 each.
“The tournament is a historic first,” says FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. “It has been a talking-point for years, but finally with the progress we are making with the harmonised international calendar, we can make it a reality.
“We shall have to see the impact of the competition and what rhythm it could best follow in future, but right now it reminds me of the days in the early 1950s when the European Cup was first introduced to a sometimes sceptical world – and look what has happened to that competition since then!”
Over 1,200 media will be following the games in Rio and Sao Paulo, and public interest is quickening among the local football-mad population. The Maracana, scene of the 1950 World Cup Final, will hold 74,000 seated fans, while the Morumbi will accommodate 59,000. Ticket sales have been going very briskly since they began a few days ago, and the Brazilian Football Confederation is anticipating a major public success.