Riyadh: Saudi Arabia has been chosen to host the next edition of the FIFA Club World Cup with the football tournament set to begin in December.
The transcontinental event, to be held from 12 to 22 December, will become the latest major international sporting event to be held in the Kingdom and provide further impetus to the development of men’s and women’s sports at all levels in the country.
The decision was made at a FIFA Council meeting on Tuesday and comes just days after Al-Hilal faced Real Madrid to become the first winner of the AFC Champions League and the first Saudi club to reach the final of the tournament .
Saudi Arabia will be only the sixth host of the competition since its inception in 2000.
Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, Minister of Sports, said: “We are honored and extremely excited to have the opportunity to welcome the world’s leading football clubs and their fans to Saudi Arabia.
“Many fans will have seen our ability as a nation to compete at the highest possible level on the pitch recently. Now we have the chance to prove that we are also world-class hosts. Look forward to demonstrating your desire to love and be a force for good.
“Today marks another important step on our journey of transformation in football and as a country and I am sure everyone involved will see for themselves the undeniable progress being made at many different levels.
“We host the International Games for the simple reason that we truly believe in the power of sport to inspire our boys and girls, to make new connections and build new relationships.
“It means a lot to our people, where 70 per cent are below 35 years of age and are completely football-crazy,” said Rajkumar.
Football is the national sport of Saudi Arabia, rooted in communities in all corners of the country, with 80 percent of the population playing, participating in, or following the sport.
The award of the FIFA Club World Cup 2023 represents the latest chapter in the evolution of Saudi football. The Kingdom was recently confirmed as the host of the 2027 AFC Asian Cup and is actively bidding to host the 2026 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
Yasir Al-Mishael, president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation and newly elected member of the FIFA Council, said: “The FIFA Club World Cup is a special competition that has delivered incredible moments.
“Not only has it brought many memories to millions of people around the world, but the tournament has also created new international rivalries and forged new friendships within the game. We would like to thank FIFA for trusting us to deliver an exceptional edition of the event. give thanks to
“Saudi football is going through an unprecedented period of development, with new energy and a sense of optimism thanks to a clear strategy in all areas of the game.
“Currently we have more players registered than ever before in all age groups of boys and girls. We have more qualified coaches, more qualified referees, better governance and stronger domestic leagues including SPL (Saudi Pro League).
“The future is bright, and this tournament is another highlight to look forward to especially when you can consider some of the mouth-watering fixtures and players taking part,” Al-Mishahal said.
The Saudi men’s first team made its sixth FIFA World Cup appearance last year after a best-ever qualification campaign and grabbed global headlines in Qatar after their victory over eventual champions Argentina.
Meanwhile, their women counterparts are on a historic run of growth and development since their inception in 2021 and were recently crowned champions at their maiden international championship.
And the newly formed U-17 team will hope to follow in his footsteps after their first training camp this month.
The exciting trajectory of development of women’s football in Saudi Arabia continues with the conclusion of the inaugural eight-team SAFF Women’s Premier League.
There has also been a tremendous increase in sports participation at all levels in the Kingdom, with over 200,000 girls practicing sport every week and 50,000 taking part in school leagues for the first time.