Ronaldinho comes face to face with history
The venues for the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2006 include the International Stadium Yokohama, the setting for the 2002 FIFA World Cup™ Final , an occasion still fresh in memory of fans the world over. On 30 June 2002, after a goalless first half, Ronaldo scored twice to take Brazil past Germany and claim the trophy for a record fifth time.
The home ground of Yokohama F. Marinos has a capacity of 72,000, the largest of any multipurpose stadium in Japan. Completed in 1998, this was the arena where Japan achieved their first-ever FIFA World Cup victory, a hard-fought triumph over Russia in the group stage of the 2002 event. In the few years since it was built, the International Stadium has also seen plenty of other top-level international drama, such as the FIFA Confederations Cup, the Toyota Cup (forerunner of the FIFA Club World Cup) and the East Asian Football Championship.
Although a cursory look around its dressing rooms does not reveal anything especially unusual, a panel behind each locker in one of the rooms can be removed to expose a unique record of a moment in history: the autograph of the triumphant Brazilians in the 2002 final. The names include adidas Golden Shoe winner Ronaldo, then-captain Cafu, and Ronaldinho , now back in Japan with Barcelona.
The stadium in Yokohama features various other 2002 mementoes, including replica Brazil strips as well as a Cafu footprint and an Oliver Kahn handprint in 'Monument 2002', all of which can be viewed on a 'World Cup Stadium Tour' of the facilities.
At this year's FIFA Club World Cup, Yokohama will be the setting for the second semi-final on Thursday 14 December featuring Barcelona and Club America . Then three days later it will be the setting for both Sunday's third place match and the final itself.
Whatever happens, Ronaldinho will be revisiting the scene of his FIFA World Cup triumph on two occasions this week. That said, he certainly will not want to come face to face with his own 2002 autograph, as that can be found in one of the locker rooms for the teams competing in the third place match.
Although Ronaldinho and Co have won global acclaim in recent times, they have not yet earned the right to call themselves club world champions. Could the UEFA Champions League holders be about to change all that and write a new page in their illustrious history? All will be revealed during what is sure to be another historic week for Yokohama.