Japan welcomes the world
With two days to go before the FIFA Club World Cup kicks off, five clubs have set up headquarters in Japan, with European champions Barcelona expected to complete the cast when they arrive on 11 December. Appearing in the tournament for the second consecutive year, Al Ahly Sporting Club of Egypt were the first to land on Japanese soil. The African representatives touched down on 3 December, a full week before the competition gets underway. After finishing in last place in 2005, the CAF champions are clearly intent on putting in a better display this year and are giving themselves ample time to prepare for the prestigious event.
Read FIFA.com's exclusive interview with Al Ahly's Mohamed Aboutrika
With billboards advertising the tournament across host cities Tokyo, Yokohama and Toyota, and TV sports shows, newspapers and football magazines also giving the event full exposure, anticipation is understandably mounting as kick-off draws closer.
Japanese fans are understandably disappointed no J.League club has made it through to the global festival of club football, but ticket sales are going well, not least because European entertainers FC Barcelona are very popular among local fans. The fact that the event is being staged in Japan for the second consecutive year has also contributed to its recognition among the general public.
Last year, Kazuyoshi Miura's participation as a member of Sydney FC was quite a talking point. This year, former international Teruo Iwamoto's return to his homeland in the colours of Auckland City is one of the main attractions.
Teru's ability to strike a dead ball with his sweet left foot is legendary among Japanese supporters, so his appearance in the opening match when the side from New Zealand take on Al Ahly in Toyota should prove quite a draw. Iwamoto is not the only attraction for fans though. On 10 December, in the hours leading up to kick-off, the "FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2006 presented by TOYOTA FAN FEST" will be staged in the Toyota Stadium.
A festival for the fans
The Fan Fests were a great success at Germany 2006, and a similar event is now being held in Japan for the very first time. A number of exciting performances are planned for the Fan Fest stage, including a football talk show hosted by football commentator and former international Shuuich Takeda from 17:30-18:00. Fresh from appearing on Japanese TV, "Cube" will stage freestyle football demonstrations in two separate shows (16:30-16:50 and 18:10-18:30). With artistic ball skills to rival even Ronaldinho, this is a chance to watch their mesmerizing performance live.
Football fans and their families will be able to sample food as well, with delicious dishes from the six continents represented at the tournament. There is something for the kids too, at a football park boasting various football attractions.
The Fan Fest is open from 13:00 to 18:30 on 10 December. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.