Barcelona’s reign as global kings will come to an end tomorrow. And though that status will disappear, the celestial feeling winning the FIFA Club World Cup delivered will stay with the club’s President for a long time to come. On the eve of the UAE 2010 final between TP Mazembe Englebert and F.C. Internazionale Milano, Sandro Rosell chatted to FIFA.com about lifting the trophy 12 months ago, its importance, Barça’s desire to return to the competition next year and having all three FIFA Ballon d’Or contenders.
FIFA.com: Last season was a historic one for Barcelona. Where did the FIFA Club World Cup rank among all the trophies you won?
Winning the FIFA Club World Cup was extremely important for us as it was the first time that FC Barcelona had won this title. It was the only competition that we won last year that we hadn't previously won. When this happens, it's like paradise! I don't want to say it was more important than the Champions League title or Spanish title, but we were very happy to be world champions.
Winning the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, did this create new opportunities for the football club in the region?
Here in the Middle East, every day we have more and more fans, and we can feel this when we travel. Last week we signed a new contract in this region. I don't know how much last year's success here in Abu Dhabi was a factor, but it definitely helped to raise our profile.
It was the only competition that we won last year that we hadn't previously won. When this happens, it's like paradise!
How surprised were the players last year to see the huge level of support for Barcelona in the stadium?
It was an incredible moment for our club. I want to remain modest about the popularity of our club, but when we travel outside Europe, we are increasingly seeing more and more interest and support. This is particularly evident in the Middle East and Africa.
This year's final will see the European champions take on the African champions. How much do you think the gap is closing between the traditional football superpowers, namely Europe and South America, and the rest of the world?
There is no doubt that the game is becoming more physical and the gap is reducing between different continents. We have seen this ourselves when we have played games in different parts of the world.
Barcelona have all three players on the shortlist for the FIFA Ballon D'Or Award (Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi). How big a source of pride is that to you?
As you can imagine, this is as important as winning a big trophy like the FIFA Club World Cup. We are very proud to have all three players from our club shortlisted, and what is more important is that they are 'homegrown'. They started in our youth teams and this gives us the confirmation that the work we started 30 years ago is going in the right way, and we will continue to develop our own players. With our head coach [Pep Guardiola] also nominated for an award too (FIFA World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football), we are hoping that there may be some more silverware coming to the club.
In 2011 the FIFA Club World Cup returns to Japan, where the final was traditionally held and very well supported. How much would Barcelona like to play in the competition again next year?
For us it is very interesting to play wherever the competitions are hosted. Naturally we enjoy playing at Camp Nou, in front of our supporters, but for us to continue to grow the popularity of our club, and be the club that children around the world admire and look up to, playing in competitions like this, in places like Abu Dhabi and Japan, is very important. We had a fantastic experience here last year, and I am sure if we were to reach the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup, we would again have a lot of neutral supporters in Japan too.