January 15 – Having already moved its delayed Club World Cup from December to February because of the impact of Covid-19, FIFA has suffered another blow to its little-loved event after it was reduced from seven to six clubs by the sudden withdrawal of Auckland City.
The New Zealand club told FIFA it could no longer represent Oceania at the tournament in Qatar because of the Covid-19 restrictions and quarantine measures in the country.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has won widespread global acclaim for trying to control the pandemic.
FIFA said that despite recent exchanges, “the requirements of the New Zealand authorities in relation to isolation and quarantine go beyond FIFA’s remit and, therefore, it was not possible to reach a solution.”
The other representatives in Qatar are Al-Duhail, Al Ahly, Bayern Munich, Ulsan Hyundai, Tigres UANL and the winners of the Libertadores final between Brazilian sides Palmeiras and Santos, which is scheduled for Jan. 30.
Auckland’s absence means Qatari champion Al-Duhail will get a bye into the second round, with the draw to be made at FIFA headquarters on Tuesday for what is the last Club World Cup in its current format ahead of a new expanded 24-team version to be staged in China but with no date yet fixed.
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