Copy of 2022-02-12T190316Z_1009343277_UP1EI2C1GXE7O_RTRMADP_3_SOCCER-CLUB-CHE-PAL-REPORT-1644694962473
Chelsea's Kai Havertz celebrates scoring their second goal Image Credit: REUTERS

Fifa president Gianni Infantino has heaped praise on Abu Dhabi for the “fantastic” hosting of the Club World Cup UAE which took place between February 3-12 at the Mohammed Bin Zayed and Al Nahyan stadiums.

The 18th edition of the Club World Cup, and the fifth taking place on UAE soil since 2009, came to a thrilling conclusion last Saturday night, as English side Chelsea became world champions for the first time by beating Brazilian outfit Palmeiras 2-1 in extra-time.

The dramatic showpiece — that saw Chelsea’s Kai Havertz score the winner — was played out in front of 32,871 fans at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium. It made for a fitting finale after 10 thrilling days of football in the UAE capital, which saw more than 135,000 fans from across the world attend the tournament’s eight matches.

Hailing the UAE for delivering a hugely successful event, Infantino said: “I think that it’s been a fantastic event here in Abu Dhabi. There’s been great organisation and we’ve loved Abu Dhabi for many years already, so I have to thank Abu Dhabi Sports Council. We’ve seen exciting matches, fantastic fans coming from all over the world — from Brazil, from Egypt, from Saudi Arabia — the teams have given their maximum, the conditions are perfect, the weather is fantastic, the stadiums are beautiful, we love it.

“I’ve witnessed the health protocols being respected and adhered to in accordance to the legislation of the country and everything went smoothly. From the teams to the referees to the officials, the whole tournament organisation was done putting health first, while respecting the teams and the football as well.”

Legendary manager Arsene Wenger, who is now Fifa’s chief of global football development joined Infantino in praising Abu Dhabi’s efforts during the tournament. The Frenchman said: “I spent the week here and it was a very enjoyable week. Abu Dhabi is a nice city, people are very friendly and overall I would say the competition has been well organised. I’ve seen that Arab football is developing and the fans have been amazing. The atmosphere inside the stadium has been absolutely great. It’s good to see.”