Now that I’ve got the bug – and, no less crucially, the indulgence of my wife with regard to TV time – I’m going to make an honest stab at covering the 2007 FIFA World Club Cup. The first step begins, of course, with education – specifically, getting up to date on the clubs that aren’t world-renowned (e.g. Argentina’s Boca Juniors and Italy’s AC Milan) or that I haven’t seen play three times in the last year (Mexico’s CF Pachuca).
With that in mind, I pulled together some reading on the remaining clubs competing in this year’s World Club Cup (a.k.a. FIFA’s latest money-spinning scheme/methadone fix for soccer addicts the world over. You don’t own me! Get out of my mind!!). I hope it will go some distance to making any viewing more pleasurable.
The profile posted on the FIFA site gives dramatic background on this Iranian club’s arrival to the World Club Cup. Some way or another, their loss to Japan’s entrants, Urawa Red Diamonds, in the obliges them to win a play-in against Oceania’s representatives. They also mention the fact that, Ehad Mohammed, one of Sepahan’s key forwards, is Iraqi…kinda neat. On a related note, the Wikipedia entry on Sepahan shows nationalities for all the team’s players – and, lo and behold, there’s another Iraqi in there. I pull for Iraqis by habit lately. And, on another related note, I read that their domestic league has recommenced play after an 18-month layoff.
Waitakere United (New Zealand)
The other club needing a play-in to enter the tournament proper, Waitakere looks like a young club (2004 or something) in a young league (not much older), the New Zealand Football Confederation. FIFA’s profile describes the team’s ride to the World Club Cup – with a close eye on their rivalry with Auckland City FC – and names a couple of their key players (Danny Hay, who apparently had some time with Leeds United, and Commins Menapi). I’m confident the Wikipedia entry alerts me to more than the presence of at least one Welshman on the team, but it’s not coming to me right now and I didn’t take notes.
Urawa Red Diamonds (Japan)
The “home team” given that the World Club Cup takes place in Japan, something that could be a factor seeing as this is the first time a Japanese club has participated in this tournament. Judging by FIFA’s write-up, team speed provided the edge in Red Diamonds’ Asian confederation win over Sepahan; they also flag the presence of four Japanese National Team players in Urawa’s back line (I’m not sure what to call these guys; they come from Kobe…or thereabouts…and I don’t know what Urawa means…though it’s probably in there somewhere…I just want to watch the games, man; I got the jones real bad). Meanwhile, Wikipedia’s write-up highlights something else that could play a role: Urawa Red Diamonds are among the best supported clubs in Asian football. And, if you look at their players’ nationalities, you’ll see a couple Brazilians on the roster, something my limited familiarity with Japanese club soccer makes me think is typical.
Etoile Sportive du Sahel (Tunisia)
If I had to pick a heavy-hitter from among these “outsider clubs,” I’d pick Etoile du Sahel. Wikipedia tells me they were founded in the early 20th century as the “Islamic club” for their bit of Tunisia and the fact they’ve been all over African continental soccer since the mid-1990s tells me they have the pedigree. FIFA’s write-up dwells on their more recent exploits – notably the upset over Egypt’s Al Ahly that got them where they are – and dubs Armine Chermiti as “teenage sensation.” If anyone is going to push the Big Three, it should be these guys.
OK, the tournament starts Friday. It looks like Fox Soccer Channel will carry the tournament for us States-siders (hey…maybe they have a primer too; . And, as noted earlier, this tournament will go by faster than Christmas morning; it’s all over by December 16…when we should see either Boca Juniors or AC Milan lift whatever it is they’re using as a trophy. But we can all hope it’ll be Sepahan…or, better still, Waitakere United.
OK, seriously, now, I’m pulling for Pachuca. Informally.