Global fans gripped to Club WCup, Europe shuns it

While Bayern Munich continued Europe’s recent dominance at the

Club World Cup, it’s unclear whether the champion’s home continent

took notice.

Bayern capped 2013 with its fifth trophy on Saturday, beating

surprise host Raja Casablanca of Morocco 2-0 in Saturday’s

anti-climactic final.

For Bayern, the triumph at the tournament of continental

champions was almost straightforward to cap a record year with the

title of the world’s best club.

For Raja, a victory could have provided the host nation with its

greatest football trophy, just days after the team had secured its

greatest international victory by eliminating Copa Libertadores

champion Atletico Mineiro of Brazil.

Atletico, guided by the charismatic Ronaldinho, was encouraged

by over 10,000 traveling supporters as it finished third in the

competition after beating Asian champion Guangzhou Evergrande of

China 3-2.

A few thousand Bayern fans made the hours-long trip to north

Africa.

While Europe has dominated the competition – winning six of the

last seven Club World Cups – the title of world’s best team seems

to be revered around the world while remaining a sideshow to

domestic league play on the continent.

”I could understand that when we play this competition in the

past years in Japan or the United Arab Emirates that there was less

interest from Europe. We are disappointed that there is not so much

interest now when we are at the door of Europe,” FIFA president

Sepp Blatter said.

”I think there should be a little more attention to the

competition. Here we have seen really good football – this is the

best publicity. It’s also a question of solidarity, there should be

interest from other clubs and leagues to see what the other

continents are doing.”

Bayern, which has waxed on about the importance of the

competition all week, ultimately delivered.

But will that change perceptions, especially after such a

straightforward victory at a tournament where the gulf between the

German champions and the rest of the world was significant?

”People say it’s not important to the Europeans. I don’t

know,” Bayern coach Pep Guardiola said. ”We have indeed

understood that this is a unique opportunity for us to win this

title, to win this final we know we have teams who have won other

(continental) titles so we knew it would be difficult. And we did

not know if we will come back here in the future. I don’t know

whether I will be back here, so this is a special moment.”

Guardiola had initially opened his arrival by saying victory

here was ”not special” since he was carrying out the work of Jupp

Heynckes, who he replaced as coach in the summer. Guardiola has now

won the competition three times, and his first triumph with

Barcelona in Abu Dhabi four years ago reduced him to tears.

But across the Strait of Gibraltar back in his native Spain,

Atletico Madrid’s continued pursuit of Spanish league was what drew

interest. Bayern’s victory was shown live in Germany only because

it had reached the final.

Reports emerging from Morocco may have also turned some

Europeans off altogether.

The local organizing committee failed to operate proper shuttles

for fans and did a poor job of protecting ticket-buyers as up to

2,000 fans gatecrashed Bayern’s semifinal at Agadir where tickets

cost up to 895 Moroccan Dirham (80 euros).

”Of course there are bad habits that exist (…) and people try

to take advantage,” event director Karim Alem said. ”We need the

game to be festive and not have negative points.”

Fans from the other continental champions – Monterrey of Mexico,

Al-Ahly of Egypt, and Auckland City of New Zealand – may have been

surprised to hear Moroccans jeer Nelson Mandela as the late South

African president was honored at stadiums. Mandela had shown

solidarity for the plight of Western Sahara, the former Spanish

colony which was annexed by Morocco.

”It is happening and there is nothing we can do,” said FIFA

secretary general Jerome Valcke, who is also South African.

The tournament returns to Morocco in 2014. Whether European fans

do is to be seen.

Follow Paul Logothetis on Twitter at:

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