FIFA president Gianni Infantino has poured praise on Abu Dhabi for the "fantastic" hosting of the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2021™ presented by Alibaba Cloud which took place between 3-12 February 2022 at the Mohammed Bin Zayed and Al Nahyan stadiums.
The 18th edition of the FIFA Club World Cup™, and the fifth taking place on United Arab Emirates (UAE) soil since 2009, came to a thrilling conclusion last Saturday night, as English side Chelsea became world champions for the first time by beating Brazilian outfit Palmeiras 2-1 in extra-time.
The dramatic showpiece - that saw Chelsea's Kai Havertz score the winner - was played out in front of 32,871 fans at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium. It made for a fitting finale after 10 thrilling days of football in the UAE capital, which saw more than 135,000 fans from across the world attend the tournament's eight matches.
Hailing the UAE for delivering a hugely successful event, Infantino said: "I think that it's been a fantastic event here in Abu Dhabi. There's been great organisation and we've loved Abu Dhabi for many years already, so I have to thank Abu Dhabi Sports Council. We've seen exciting matches, fantastic fans coming from all over the world - from Brazil, from Egypt, from Saudi Arabia - the teams have given their maximum, the conditions are perfect, the weather is fantastic, the stadiums are beautiful, we love it!"
He added: "I've witnessed the health protocols being respected and adhered to in accordance to the legislation of the country and everything went smoothly. From the teams to the referees to the officials, the whole tournament organisation was done putting health first, while respecting the teams and the football as well."
Legendary manager Arsene Wenger, who is now FIFA's chief of global football development joined Infantino in praising Abu Dhabi's efforts during the tournament. The Frenchman said: "I spent the week here and it was a very enjoyable week. Abu Dhabi is a nice city, people are very friendly and overall I would say the competition has been well organised. I've seen that Arab football is developing and the fans have been amazing. The atmosphere inside the stadium has been absolutely great. It's good to see."
Supporters travelled from all over the world to enjoy the competition and its host city, while those that attended FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2021™ fixtures flocked to the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium's Fan Experience Area™, which welcomed 45,000+ supporters, who enjoyed interactive and exciting games. Highlights included the photo opportunity with the prestigious Winner’s trophy and Club Trophies at the Trophy Exhibit Area, and meeting the official mascot Dhabi.
Meanwhile the Mobile Roadshow was activated to a total of 8,290 participants across all 14 of its locations which included popular shopping centres across the country in addition to EXPO 2020 Dubai’s Sports Arena. The Mobile Roadshow aimed to positively impact the community, in addition to inspire the youth and engage them in major sports events.
Hosting the prestigious tournament comes as part of Abu Dhabi Sports Council’s initiatives to promote an effective year-round sports calendar that generates positivity, opportunities, encourages participation amongst all members of the community and cement the UAE capital’s status as a premier host of global sports events.
With more than 10,000 accreditation applications made, over 800 guests welcomed by FIFA and the Local Organising Committee to the two stadiums, FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2021™ tickets were the hottest in town.
The safety of everyone involved was paramount to the organisers, with strict Covid-19 measures in place at both venues to ensure a safe environment during the tournament, in alignment with the set health and safety protocol. To help deliver that, there were 1,750+ team members working on the tournament, 1,300 staff working at each match day, 750 volunteers and 64 medical experts deployed at every game.
African football legend Didier Drogba, who was at the final to see his old club Chelsea prevail over Palmeiras, added: "You just have to see what's happening tonight to see why Abu Dhabi is the destination for sports. When you see that this tournament has been played at different stadiums and you see the quality of the people, the way that they welcome everyone, I'm super happy. The Covid-19 measures were very organised, which made it easy to enter the stadium. They were fantastic."
The FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2021™ was not only a hit on the ground. It was broadcast to 107 countries in territories all over the world, while the LOC’s digital marketing campaign delivered over 164 million impressions, 804,000+ clicks on content and over 20 million videos views.
John Cross, chief football writer at the British newspaper Daily Mirror, shared his experience covering the tournament in Abu Dhabi: “It was really well organised, you can see a passion for sport in the city and how much people love football. It ran very smoothly.”
As well as seeing 24 goals across the eight fixtures between the globe's continental kings, history was made with the continued trialling of semi-automated offside technology (SAOT). As well as giving the Video Assistant Referees (VAR) even faster access to the latest technology, the SAOT displayed 3D animations on the stadium big screen and television broadcasts that gave spectators greater insight into offside decisions.