Today is the day. Get comfortable in your arm chairs, order in pizza and keep the cold beers on ice. THE BIG MATCH is about to start!! Al-Wahda v Hekari United FC and the start of the TOO GOOD TO MISS FIFA World Club Championships in the United Arab Emirates.
For the handful of you that don't know. Al-Wahda, coached by Austrian Josef Hickersberger, are the host club from ABU DHABI while their first round opponents are from Port Moresby, Papua-New Guinea. Good luck to them of course, They are the OCEANIA champions, defeating the might of New Zealand to earn the trip.
The UAE is made up of 7 emirates or microstates : Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain, Ajma and Ras Alkhamah. Camel and horse racing are popular and you might be lucky enough to bump into The Neville Brothers, The Rooneys or Sam Allardyce. WHAT A THRILL. Awaiting the winner in the next round is Seungnam Ilwa Chunma FC from Korea. TP Mazembe Englebert from Congo DR v Pachuca of Mexico is another hot fixture. the 'heavyweights', Internazionale of Milano and SC Internacional of Brasil come into the event at the semi-final stage.
Matches will be played at two stadiums, Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium and Zayed Sports City, both in Abu Dhabi. In charge of the event is Chuck Blazer, the secretary general of CONCACAF who lives in the Trump Plaza in New York City, where his confederation's office is also located.
I woke up in my room at The Holiday Inn in Zurich, Switzerland on July 4th, 1988, a big day in the USA. The news though was of tragedy. The day before, July 3rd, The USS Vincenze a guided missile cruiser, had mistakenly shot down IRAN AIR 665, an A300 Airbus passenger plane with two missiles over the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. There were 290 passengers and crew on board, and no survivors.
A taxi ride took me across town to another Holiday Inn, where the bids for the 1994 FIFA World Cup were to be discussed and voted on. Earlier in the year I had been visiting FIFA House on Hitzigweg on the slopes of Sonnenberg, 'Sunny Hill' and was given a tour, including President Joao Havelenge's vacant office. There on his desk were three bids from Brasil, Morocco and USA. (Chile had dropped out). The bidding rules were VERY CLEAR.
The bids had to be in a ringed excercise book. Brasil's was not very thick and untidy, but they and USA had complied. The Moroccan bid book was in hand tooled red Moroccan leather with gold leaf lettering!!!
Waiting for the bidding process I chatted with some employees of ISL who were FIFA's big promotion company. I wandered into a corridor. On one side was the ballroom where the bidding presentations were to be made, and the other side were three suites where the bidding teams were housed. The Moroccans argued that the USA should be banned, due to the events in the Persian Gulf, but FIFA stated that politics wouldn't enter into consideration!!
The President of the CBF, Otavio Pinto Guimaraes, left the voting room a second time with a glum face, within a yard of me, and I knew what had happened. He knocked on the door of the USA suite, asked for USSF President Werner Fricker, a former USA Olympic player, shook his hand, conceeded, and offered his congratulations. I was the first to know, rushed back to the waiting area and told the press. USA FOR 1994. THE BEST BID WON.