Every year, the FIFA Club World Cup offers a unique opportunity for fans to watch the best clubs compete to be crowned as world champions. The 2020 edition will be contested by Al Duhail SC (host nation representatives), Al Ahly SC (CAF), FC Bayern Munich (UEFA), Palmeiras (CONMEBOL), Tigres UANL (Concacaf) and Ulsan Hyundai FC (AFC).
This will be the second time the tournament has been played in Qatar, following the country’s successful hosting of the 2019 edition, where Liverpool were crowned champions. This year’s tournament will be played in two FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ venues: Education City Stadium and the recently-launched Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
Ahead of the latest edition of the competition kick-off, we spoke to footballing legends and Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) Ambassadors Cafu, Samuel Eto’o, Wael Gomaa and Xavi Hernandez about their memories of competing in the tournament during their playing days.
Appearances: 2007 (AC Milan)
Best finish: Champions (2007)
“One of the most important club competitions I won as a player was the UEFA Champions League with Milan in 2007, which meant I also got the opportunity to compete at the FIFA Club World Cup. It was a great honour for me to win the Club World Cup as a player, as not many get this opportunity. At Milan, we had an impressive team at that time with lots of great players such as Kaka, Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo.
“Competing at the FIFA Club World Cup provides further recognition and merit for the job you have done during the previous season and is another opportunity to compete against other great teams and win some additional silverware.
“In the final in 2007, we played against an extremely difficult opponent in Boca Juniors. It is never easy to play against Boca, but at Milan, we were very well prepared for the match and managed to win 4-2 in an exciting game.
“I know that Qatar is looking forward to once again hosting this fantastic competition. The players will be arriving to a country that is super prepared to host the event and has all the protocols in place to make sure it runs smoothly and safely. I’m lucky to have seen many of the amazing stadiums, so I’m sure it will be an honour for the players to play in Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium and Education City Stadium in advance of the FIFA World Cup in 2022.”
Appearances: 2010 (Inter Milan)
Best finish: Champions (2010)
Personal honours: Golden Ball (2010)
“My memories of the FIFA Club World Cup could not be better, because I won the final with Inter Milan in 2010. For the first time, I had the pleasure of playing in a final against a very beautiful African team, TP Mazembe.
“I had a lot of emotions for this match for my continent, Africa, and my duty to ensure victory for Inter Milan. It was an honour to win the competition with Inter for the first time in the club’s history and to share this victory with my brothers from TP Mazembe.
“After the match, I went to their dressing room, I stayed a while, and I shared the moment with the players from TP Mazembe. These are great memories for me, especially as I also won the Golden Ball as the best player of the tournament. Winning this honour was a surprise for me, but made me very happy. It was the first time an African player won this distinction at the competition, so it was a great honour.
“From my role as an SC Ambassador, I know Qatar is ready and very much excited to host the FIFA Club World Cup. I know from my experience as a player that this will be a privileged moment for the players competing at the tournament and it will create many happy memories for them to look back on.”
Appearances: 2005, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2013 (Al Ahly)
Best finish: Third place (2006)
“The FIFA Club World Cup is a very important tournament, and in my opinion, the most prestigious competition at club level due to the participation of the champions of the six continents. It is an opportunity that enables players to crown their efforts from the previous season at their respective clubs. The CAF Champions League within the African continent is always a difficult tournament to win, especially due to the amount of travel from one country to another.
“The FIFA Club World Cup is a great reward to the players who put in a tremendous effort to reach the tournament, as it provides an opportunity to play at a very distinguished level in a new environment.
“I am proud to have played in 11 matches in five editions of the FIFA Club World Cup with Al Ahly and such experiences are full of unforgettable and happy memories.
“I first played in the tournament in Japan in 2005. It was a hard experience for us, as we had to play in unusual circumstances and lost both games. We ended up finishing in sixth place, but learned many positive lessons that helped us in 2006, where we were very close to reaching the final until Brazilian club Internacional capitalised on a mistake from our side to win the semi-final. We went on to finish third after beating Club America in the play-off. This was my best memory from the tournament, especially as we were so close to qualifying for the final. This match was so special to all of us and it’s engraved in all Al Ahly fans’ minds.
“I am excited to watch Al Ahly’s participation at this year’s FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar. It will be a very special and unique opportunity for the players to compete in such a big international event that is being hosted in an Arab homeland. I hope that Al Ahly performs strongly in the tournament for the club’s fans in Egypt, as well as the many Al Ahly fans living in Qatar.”
Appearances: 2006, 2009 & 2011 (Barcelona)
Best finish: Champions (2009, 2011)
Personal honours: Bronze Ball (2009), Silver Ball (2011)
“I had the honour of playing at the FIFA Club World Cup on three occasions for Barcelona, winning it twice. In 2009, I remember the final being a really tough game against Estudiantes. The game went to extra time after we equalised in the 90th minute before Messi went on to score the winning goal for us late in the game.
“In 2011, we outclassed Santos in the final, beating them 4-0. I have really good memories of that match, not just because of the goal I scored and the result, but for how we played as a team – it was a really strong performance. Santos had a really good team with players like Ganso and Neymar, but we had a fantastic generation of players in that Barcelona team led by Pep Guardiola. It was special to play in that final and a great memory to look back on.
“I have also had the privilege of coaching in a FIFA Club World Cup with my current club Al Sadd when Qatar hosted the 2019 edition of the tournament. We were proud to represent Qatari football and showcase the country during this prestigious event. We also performed well in the tournament. We won the first game against Hienghene Sport before pushing Monterrey close in the second round. It was a great experience for the players to compete in a global competition.
“I know Qatar is really looking forward to staging the FIFA Club World Cup again and providing another preview of what fans can expect when the FIFA World Cup takes place in the country in less than two years’ time.”