The final countdown has begun. With Monday 3 September marking 100 days to go until the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 kicks off in the country’s heritage heartland of Al Ain, reigning Arabian Gulf League (AGL) champions Al Ain FC – the tournament’s host team – face a ‘date with destiny’ at the December showpiece.
Following Al Ain FC’s historic title-winning exploits last season, ‘The Boss’ spent July and August preparing for their domestic title defence with an intense pre-season training camp in Europe. Having kick-started the new AGL season with a 3-1 win against Emirates FC last Friday, the defence of their league title is off to a fine start.
And now, with the FIFA World Cup UAE Official Draw taking place on September 4, the reigning UAE champions are readying to do the nation proud on home soil in their quest to be crowned world club champions – one of eight competitions Al Ain FC will contest in the coming season.
Tasked with overseeing the host team’s preparations for the 11-day FIFA World Cup UAE, Al Ain FC coach Zoran Mamic insists his team will be ready: “It is a great honour for Al Ain FC to be part of the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 in our own country - we will try to do our best.
“We’re waiting to see the final list of qualifiers but it’s a great pleasure to be part of a tournament to crown the best club team on the planet. Al Ain deserves to be in this group of teams this year. There are 100 days until the tournament kicks off, but we are looking forward to our date with destiny.”
Ahead of the tournament’s Official Draw, the prospect of a mouth-watering clash with Real Madrid CF is already exciting Mamic: “I played against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League during my playing career, they are a huge team, one of the biggest in the world. For the country, and football fans in the emirates, it is a big thing to see these players live in the flesh and, of course, it is a big event that I hope the entire country will enjoy.”
“Real Madrid is a team which I like very much and they obviously a strong Croatian connection with Luka Modric – it will great to welcome my countrymen to Al Ain, Abu Dhabi and the UAE in December.”
As Mamic and Al Ain FC prepare to face the continental club champions from six FIFA confederations – Europe (UEFA), Oceania (OFC), Africa (CAF), Asia (AFC), South America (CONMEBOL) and North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) – the players are relishing the opportunity to showcase their talents on the global stage.
“Everybody is happy that Al Ain will play in the FIFA Club World Cup in the UAE in December – every professional footballer wants to play in tournaments like this. When you are playing Ronaldo, Messi, Bale or any big player, you always have extra motivation and concentration for the game. This will be one of the best chapters in my career. Playing against teams like Real Madrid is a story you will never forget, it is why we play professional football, to play against the very best players and teams,” said Al Ain FC centre-back Ismail Ahmed.
“We will prepare for these champions with the respect they deserve but Al Ain is not scared of any team, we are here to play football. It’s 11 versus 11. The level will be a step up, but we are ready - we want to know our own level by playing against the best teams from Europe, South America and elsewhere in the world.”
While Mamic, Ahmed and Al Ain FC prepare for the tournament, His Excellency Aref Al Awani, Tournament Director of the Local Organising Committee for the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018, revealed organisers’ preparations are well under way.
“With the experience of hosting three previous world-class tournaments behind us, Abu Dhabi and the UAE are ready for the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 in December. This a unique opportunity for the UAE to cement its place on the global football map, so we urge football supporters across the country to get their tickets – we promise a festival of football for sports fans and newcomers to the game alike,” said H.E Al Awani.
Tickets are now available online via www.fifacwc.ae