- Pair visited Jeddah ahead FIFA Club World Cup Saudi Arabia 2023™ being hosted December 12-22
- They praised “rapid development” of Saudi football – “achievable due to the passionate fans here”
- Say hosting tournament this size “a big challenge” but that FIFA will “find what they’re looking for” in KSA
- Both regular visitors to Saudi Arabia say they’ve seen “a lot of changes”, praise SPL and wider set-up
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Dec. 4, 2023 /PRNewswire/ —
Past champions Paolo Maldini and David Villa believe the “passion” of Saudi Arabia’s football-obsessed young population will make this month’s FIFA Club World Cup Saudi Arabia 2023™ an unmissable global spectacle – and set the Kingdom up for even bigger events in the future.
The pair were in Jeddah this week as the Red Sea coastal city counts down to hosting men’s club football’s ultimate annual competition.
Both men enjoyed glittering careers – winning the FIFA Club World Cup™ in 2007 and 2011 respectively – with Villa also helping guide Spain to victory in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Now regular visitors to Saudi Arabia, the trophy-laden pair used their time at the tournament’s Jeddah Corniche fan-zone to not only test their skills and get their hands back on the FIFA Club World Cup™, but to also share their thoughts on the Kingdom’s growing stature and influence within global football.
Maldini said: “Hosting a tournament like the FIFA Club World Cup™ is a big challenge. FIFA is very strict when it comes to the terms of organising a tournament, but with the passion here [in Saudi Arabia], I think they will find what they are looking for.
“I’ve been to Saudi Arabia several times. The first time was 30 years ago, and there are lots of changes since then. Saudis love football – this has been known for years, and I’ve experienced it personally. We have a goal to make this [tournament] one of the most important tournaments in the world, and this is achievable due to the passionate fans here.”
Villa shared that sentiment, saying: “I’ve visited Saudi Arabia four times in the last year – the passion for football is real here. Saudis have such a strong passion for football, not only locally but globally, too.
“To host a tournament like the FIFA Club World Cup™ is very important to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi League is developing rapidly, and Saudi football is progressing very well. There is also a huge affection for football here.
“Football should always be for the fans, those who are passionate and want to watch the games. That’s why it’s crucial and important for Saudi Arabia to host a tournament like the FIFA Club World Cup™.”
Competing in Jeddah December 12-22 will be the champions of the six continental federations: Manchester City (ENG), Fluminense (BRA), Al Ahly (EGY), Urawa Red Diamonds (JPN), Club Léon (MEX) and Auckland City (NZL).
Joining them in battling it out for the ultimate prize in men’s club football will be Jeddah’s own Al-Ittihad, who qualify as domestic champions of the host nation – in this instance, Saudi Arabia.
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