FIFA floundering with CWC 2021 hosting. UAE could be their last-minute face-saver

October 6 – FIFA is scrambling to find new organisers of this year’s Club World Cup after South Africa announced they have withdrawn their interest to host the tournament in December.

South Africa’s move, which followed the withdrawal of original hosts Japan, leaves the United Arab Emirates as the only other country to have made a formal expression of interest to FIFA. Brazil and Egypt had also signalled interest but that soon cooled.

The UAE hosted the Club World Cup in 2008 and 2009, and again in 2017 and 2018. In 2019 the UAE hosted the expanded 24-team Asian Cup.

Qatar, which has held the last two editions of the Club World Cup and hosts the World Cup next year, could also reportedly step in at the 11th hour, using the competition to further hone its preparations for the global showpiece in November and December 2022.

However, Qatar is already committed to the hosting of the inaugural Arab Cup in November/December, the official FIFA test event for 2022.

Just as it has always been in the past, the Club World Cup, featuring the club champions of FIFA’s six continents plus an extra team from the host nation, will take place in winter. The significance of that for Qatar of course is that for the first and only time, the 2022 World Cup is also taking place in winter.

The withdrawal of South Africa does not help FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino and his multiple attempts to position the African continent and CAF’s new South African president as global player and a credible equal partner in world football – a position Africa had held unquestionably previously before the disastrously short presidency of Ahmad and FIFA’s equally failed rescue mission.

It seems a long time since 2010 when South Africa successfully hosted the World Cup. The South African FA (Safa) had previously downplayed any fears of coronavirus but said in a statement it will not be pursuing its bid.

“For South Africa to host the FIFA Club World Cup, the nation needs to reach the 70 per cent vaccination threshold,” it said. “The issue of the short period of time left to bid and put all processes in place was proving a challenge.”

As it stands, South Africa has vaccinated just under a third of its adult population of just under 40 million.

The Rainbow Nation is also on the UK’s red list meaning European champions Chelsea would in all likelihood not have been able to participate.

One option would be to push the 2021 CWC tournament back into 2022 but that would then potentially create calendar clashes with the completing of 2022 World Cup qualifying.

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