"In order to conquer the world, you must cross it." These words, emblazoned on a banner belonging to Sao Paulo's fanatical supporters, are etched in the mind of goalkeeper and captain Rogerio Ceni. And it is with this spirit of adventure – to win the FIFA Club World Championship on the other side of the world – that Sao Paulo officially embarked on its journey to the FIFA Club World Championship, TOYOTA Cup Japan 2005.
On 11 November, the winners of the Copa Libertadores staged a media day for the presentation of the trophy that will be handed over to the winner of the FIFA Club World Championship, which brings together the champions of the continental club competitions: the AFC Champions League, the CAF Champions League, the CONCACAF Champions Cup, the OFC Club Championship, the UEFA Champions League and, of course, the CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores.
The media day, where Sao Paulo's players and management set out their intentions for the forthcoming FIFA Club World Championship, was attended by the Vice-President of the CBF and FIFA representative, Nabi Abi Chedid, the representative of the South American Football Confederation, Hugo Figueiredo, the President of Sao Paulo, Marcelo Portugal Gouveia, the coach Paulo Autuori and the goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni.
President Gouveia spoke of what an honour it was for him to welcome the FIFA representatives and stressed the significance of the competition. "With our victories in 1992 and 1993, Sao Paulo are inextricably linked with this tournament. To the joy of these two victories we can now add the equal – if not greater – joy of being able to take part in the inaugural FIFA Club World Championship," he said while thanking all those connected with the club, particularly the players and the technical staff, for their efforts.
Coach Paulo Autuori emphasised how committed the team were to securing the trophy for Brazil. "You can be sure that this team will give their all, both physically and mentally, to bring the trophy back to Brazil."
The presentation of the official trophy, the gleaming new Toyota Cup, was a real boost for the players. Amoroso, a striker, declared that "being so close to the trophy makes you want to keep it here forever".
"Only winning the trophy will do" – President Marcelo Portugal Gouveia left the assembled throng in no doubt as to his side's intentions in Japan. "Our fans will settle for nothing less than the trophy itself."
The Brazilians are so committed to their task that they are leaving for Japan some 10 days before the tournament opens in order to adapt to the different time zone, climate and pitches. "We have twice as far to travel as our opponents and we need to do everything possible to cancel out this disadvantage," declared the keeper and captain Rogerio Ceni, who received the FIFA Fair Play pennant and stated that both he and his team-mates would do their utmost to set an example for their supporters. "We're role models for our supporters, Brazilian and Japanese alike, and we'll make them proud of us both on and off the pitch."
Sao Paulo is steeped in the tradition of this competition having already lifted the trophy twice, 1992 and 1993, in its Intercontinental Cup format which pitted the South American club champions against the European club champions. Since then no Brazilian team has repeated their success and now, 12 years on and with Paulo Autuori at the helm, they have again been entrusted with the task of securing the trophy for Brazil. Victory would be all the sweeter given that it is now an official FIFA competition.
In their opening fixture, Sao Paulo play the winners of the clash between the Asian representatives Al Itihad and the Eyptians Al Ahly. "It does not matter that these teams have less tradition or fewer titles than Sao Paulo. The fact that they have got this far means they are highly capable sides and deserve our total respect," stated the striker Grafitte, the star of the Copa Libertadores campaign who is returning from injury just in time for the pre-tournament preparations and is hopeful of making a meaningful contribution. "If I'm not up to playing a full ninety minutes, I'll be itching to get on some time during the game. I'm desperate to score goals!" he declared.
The Vice-President of the CBF, Nabi Abi Chedid, and the Conmebol Director of Competitions, Hugo Figueiredo, highlighted the fact that Sao Paulo are representing more than just Brazil in the competition. "You are representing all South American football fans, not just Brazilians!" Figueiredo said. "We hope Rogerio Ceni can go on to lift another trophy for South America." The Sao Paulo supporters share this hope.