FIFA World Club Cup: Surprisingly Good

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CaughtOffside is back and nicely jetlagged after covering the FIFA World Club Cup and, surprisingly, it was actually really good.

The tournament’s concept is ultimately compelling for the same reasons that the Champions League or World Cup is – it pits the best that geographical regions have to offer against each other for Global Supremacy (in trophy form) and the title of Best Club In The World. Of course, this title means nothing just as when Liverpool or Porto won the Champions League, or Italy won the World Cup, many accepted that they were holders of the tournament trophy rather than actually being the best football club in all of Europe, or the best football nation in the world. Such a bold title should be saved for pub arguments rather than the victor of a handful of matches.

Despite many regarding this tournament as a bit of a joke, it actually turned out to be pretty entertaining and a great showcase for clubs from outside the major footballing nations. We turned up not knowing much at all about the likes of Egypt’s Al Ahly, but came away fans of their Arsenal-eqsue passing football and technical ability. We don’t really get to see much of Internacional of Brazil, but saw a well trained, hard-working club with plenty of Brazilian flair. Players like Fernandao stood out and were any Premiership scouts present, his size and ability to link up play in attack will have been noticed. A young star rose to prominence in Alexandre Pato, and the atmosphere from traveling supporters from clubs who have never played each other was fantastic, while the hosting Japanese were excitable as always. A Ronaldinho backheel is more exciting when accompanied by 72,000 high-pitched screams.

But many people feel like the tournament should be changed. That it should mean more. Some have called for the tournament to be expanded, to include multiple clubs per confederation and stage qualifiers throughout the football season rather than constraining matches to a single week’s time. But that would merely be doubling up efforts, why place the likes of Chelsea, Barcelona and Milan in yet another tournament against each other when Barcelona already exerted their supremacy by winning the previous year’s Champions League? Pitting the same clubs against each other in different competitions each season is not going to get by the fixture-congestion police.

For us, the FIFA World Club Cup needs no changing. Sure, some of the football was dismal – which meant it translates poorly to anyone watching on TV – but it was fantastic to be there in person. The tournament is not meant to be a major competitive trophy but rather simply a watered down version of the FIFA party known as the World Cup. A few matches and a lot of fun over a short period of time, allowing football fans from around the world to have a bit of a laugh, while boosting the reputation and tourist income of the host city. And Japan 2006 delivered brilliantly.

Sure, the tournament isn’t that competitive until the final – but why would it be? It’s simply a fair reflection of the state of the footballing world. And, with what we saw from the African and Asian clubs, it won’t be that long anyway before we see an unfamiliar name claiming the title of Best Club In The World.