On the eve of the opening match of the tenth FIFA Club World Cup, which is being staged in Morocco from 11 to 21 December, a press conference was held to provide an update on proceedings prior to the big kick-off, as well as to outline specific formalities that will be observed during the competition.
In addition to goal-line technology, which will be used for the first time on African soil, the tournament will also feature the ‘Madiba Moment’ – in honour of Nelson Mandela – and the ‘Handshake for Peace’, an initiative introduced by FIFA and the Nobel Peace Centre that will be implemented at every match.
With this new protocol, the referee and team captains will meet on the pitch near the centre circle directly after the final whistle and shake hands to mark the end of the game.
Taking questions from the media in Marrakesh on these topics and others were FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke, Mohamed Raouraoua, Chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA Club World Cup, Abdelilah El Akram, Deputy Chairman of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and Karim Alem, Event Director.
On the organisation of the tournament in Morocco
I, like all of the committee members, am happy to see that everything is prepared and ready for a magnificent event that should be one of the best in the history of the tournament. I’d like to thank all those near and far that helped during the preparatory stage. In terms of the legacy for Morocco is concerned, we will have high-quality infrastructure and elite training pitches, which will be put to good use when the country stages the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 2015. We’re also happy to welcome goal-line technology to Africa for the first time ever, and I hope that by the time the final comes along, we’ll be more than satisfied with how the tournament has gone.
On FIFA Club World Cup host countries
Up to how, the event has run smoothly in the various countries that have hosted the event. In Europe, we’re a bit inundated with football – there are matches on every day. And so I’m not convinced that it’s the best place to organise this tournament. But a crucial feature is the presence of the European champion from the previous season. We’ve asked for bids for the 2015 and 2016 tournaments, as well as those in 2017 and 2018. Numerous countries, including China, have already expressed an interest. That’s a good sign, and not just because a Chinese team qualified for the first time this year, but because the nation has shown a desire to develop its own football through the organisation of this competition.
On the presence of Ronaldinho
Ronaldinho is someone I know well – he’s a fantastic player who went through a difficult time at a certain stage of his career. Since then, he’s got back to his best, particularly in the latest game he played for his club. It’s important for him to be here and perform in this tournament, which he’s not won before. I wish him and indeed every other player all the best, and may the best team win. I don’t favour his team over Bayern, Monterrey or Auckland. I just wish for a tournament with great teams in it. We should be treated to some very good football to finish off the year on a high note.
On the Madiba Moment
Before every match, we’re going to ask everyone in the stadiums – players, fans and officials – to observe a moment of silence and to applaud Nelson Mandela, whose image will be broadcast on a giant screen. Mandela fought to bring people together in harmony all his life. We therefore wanted to allow people to recognise him by applauding what he did during his life to make this world a better place, and to make South Africa the country it is today. We put together the 2010 World Cup with Madiba’s help. I met him a few times – he was the most impressive figure that I’ve ever known.
On ticket sales
FIFA brought a new dimension to the way we normally organise football competitions. Instead of selling tickets at the last minute as we’re used to doing most often, we launched an initial phase of online sales two months in advance. Naturally, the habits of the Moroccan public aren’t going to change overnight, but the sales were very successful, which was pleasantly surprising. Bearing in mind that last-minute sales will still take place, we’ve already filled 70 to 75 per cent of the stadiums. In just four days, 40,000 tickets were sold for the opening match in Agadir. There’s nothing better than a packed stadium. For Bayern’s matches, we’ve already reached 55 per cent, and we’re at 83 per cent for the final. There are a few tickets left, but perhaps not for very long.