Over the next two weeks, the eyes of the footballing world will be on UAE as the seven competing sides vie to become the world's best club team of 2010.
The build-up to the FIFA Club World Cup has coincided with the UAE’s National Day on 2 December, marking the 39th anniversary of the union of seven emirates to form one Arab nation. As is tradition, the streets are a colourful mass of flags, bunting and decorations, all of which will remain in place until the winner is crowned in just under two week’s time.
With just two days to go before the big kick-off, excitement is reaching fever pitch as eager fans await the tournament’s opening game, the quarter-final play-off between Emirati League champions Al-Wahda Sports Club and Oceanian champions Hekari United of Papua New Guinea. From now until December 18, the country will be a haven for football fans as the capital hosts thousands of local and foreign visitors with an exciting programme of events throughout the Emirates.
The pre-tournament entertainment began some time ago courtesy of the ‘Football Heads', the life-size characters dressed in the colours of the seven competing teams who have been visiting public places throughout the state to give people a taste of the fun and excitement they can expect during the tournament.
Another hugely popular highlight of the pre-tournament festivities was the Football Village set up in Abu Dhabi Corniche, which attracted over 180,000 fans of all ages. One of the main events here was the 'Match in the Sky', in which two teams of professional acrobats play a game of football on a specially constructed vertical pitch.
Fans have also been gathering at the stand in Marina Mall to participate in a host of fun activities for all the family, including new virtual technology experiences and a football passing game. Illustrating the very broad appeal of the entertainment are the hundreds of local school children who have been enjoying fun activities with the official tournament mascot and receiving spot prizes and mementoes of the occasion.
The president of the country’s Football Association, Mohammad Khalfan Al-Rumaithi, spoke about the exciting programme of events, saying: “The Club World Cup is more than just a footballing occasion, it’s a chance to involve the public and the community. Fans will be able to enjoy a host of football-related activities throughout the Emirates before the start of the tournament.”
As was the case last year, the final on 18 December is expected to draw a bumper crowd to watch the closing ceremony and see the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup champion crowned. May the best team win!