Abu Dhabi – The FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017, presented by Alibaba Cloud, came to an enthralling climax this evening in front of a massive crowd at the Zayed Sports City stadium, Abu Dhabi as Real Madrid C.F defeated Gremio with a 1-0 victory.
Over 41,000 fans from across the globe flocked to Zayed Sports City stadium on Saturday for highly anticipated final and third place play-off matches.
Real Madrid C.F. won their second FIFA Club World Cup title, whilst Gremio and C.F. Pachuca secured second and third place respectively.
The pinnacle of club football has attracted thousands of fans to host cities Abu Dhabi and Al Ain for a 10-day football master-class, culminating in tonight’shighly anticipated final featuring the European and South American champions. The match, arguably the biggest to have been hosted in the UAE, saw Los Blancos continue their record-breaking form, successfully defending their FIFA Club World Cup title and in doing so becoming the first team to ever lift the trophy in two consecutive seasons.
The match marked a momentous milestone in the UAE’s sporting history, the culmination of a hugely successful 10-day tournament that is set to leave a lasting legacy for sport and sports fans across the country.
The 41,000 attendance was a record for a club football match in the UAE and fans have expressed their delight at the success of the tournament. Following the closing ceremony, Mateo Rodríguez, a Real Madrid fan from Spain said; “It has been a fantastic tournament, to come all the way here and follow our beloved club, it really is something special for all of us as fans. We have had a fantastic time in Abu Dhabi and we will leave with many good memories. We hope to come back next year!”
The UAE has been gripped by football fever in the lead-up to, and throughout the tournament, as the seven continental champions – Auckland City FC (OFC Champions League), Urawa Red Diamonds (AFC Champions League), Wydad Athletic Club (CAF Champions League), C.F. Pachuca (CONCACAF Champions League), Al Jazira (UAE host nation), Gremio (CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores) and Real Madrid C.F. (UEFA Champions League) – have competed for the title of FIFA Club World Cup champions.
The hosting of the FIFA Club World Cup, seven years on from the last time it took place in the UAE, marks the start of three years of major football tournaments being played in the UAE, with the same event returning to Abu Dhabi in 2018 and the AFC Asian Cup taking place across the UAE in January 2019.
The trio of football tournaments supports the nation’s commitment to further developing its sporting infrastructure and encouraging an active lifestyle for all those who live in the UAE. The investment in world-class events extends well beyond football, with the UAE already home to an enviable line-up of international competitions including Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, The Abu Dhabi Tour, ITU World Triathlon Series Abu Dhabi, Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.
“The FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 has been a resounding success and we could not be happier with how the tournament has panned out,” commented His Excellency Major-General, Mohammad Khalfan Al Romaithi, Chairman of the Higher Local Organising Committee.
“We have seen a record attendance at tonight’s final, with millions of other fans tuning in around the world to watch their sporting heroes compete in the pinnacle of club football. We are already seeing the short-term benefits of hosting the competition through increased tourism, but we must work hard over the coming years to make sure that hosting internationally recognised sports events like the FIFA Club World Cup have a lasting legacy and aid the development of the UAE’s sports infrastructure,” he added.
The unexpected success of Abu Dhabi’s Al Jazira was one of the tournament’s most inspiring stories, with the UAE’s football community rallying together to support their local heroes. The Pride of Abu Dhabi overcame Auckland City FC in the qualifying round, before knocking out AFC Champions League winners Urawa Red Diamonds to set up a semi-final clash with European giants, Real Madrid .
Henk ten Cate’s team were in truly mesmerising form, and against all odds went 1-0 up against a superstar laden Madrid side that included the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale. Despite losing the match 2-1, Al Jazira drew many plaudits for their performances throughout the tournament and hope that theirfourth placed finish can inspire and empower the next generation of UAE nationals.
“If someone would have told me before the tournament that we would be playing for third or fourth place I wouldn’t have believed it,” commented Al Jazira manager, Henk ten Cate. “I am so proud of how far we’ve come in this tournament and I am so proud of my players. We are looking forward to having a few days of rest.”
Following C.F. Pachuca’s bronze victory, Real Madrid C.F. secured their third title equalling Barcelona’s record haul. Cristiano Ronaldo’s free-kick that saw the team stand on top of the UAE 2017 podium.
Following the match, five-time Ballon d’Or winner, Cristiano Ronaldo said “I was very happy to have won this trophy. Real Madrid has never won five titles in one year so we are all very proud of what we did today.”
“We kicked off the match with strength and intensity,” said Real Madrid’s manager Zinedine Zidane.
“We’ve played a superb match tonight and we are all really happy to be crowned again FIFA Club World Cup Champions.”
The FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 has also touched thousands of lives through a range of community activities, inspiring people of all ages to become more active and lead a healthier lifestyle. The touring Mobile Roadshow has seen thousands of participants put their skills to the test at various locations around the country, with a lucky few having the unique chance to pit their skills against FIFA Legends Míchel Salgado, Dwight Yorke, Eric Abidal, Mikaël Silvestre and Iván Córdoba.
The Youth Leadership program has impacted hundreds of lives as well as providing 38 enthusiastic youngsters with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be official ball carriers or flag bearers for the tournament. A select number of Youth Leaders will also be offered life changing internships, working with the Local Organizing Committee on future sports events and developing invaluable experience that could lead to a career in sport.
The LOC will now start planning for the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018, looking to build on the success of this year’s competition and making the fourth FIFA Club World Cup hosted in the UAE the most celebrated football event in the countries sporting history.