Club World Cup kicks off in Qatar against COVID backdrop

Tournament, delayed by almost two months due to the pandemic, kicks off on Thursday with stadiums operating at 30 percent capacity.

The delayed 2020 FIFA Club World Cup will kick off in Qatar on Thursday as the country ramps up its preparation for the 2022 World Cup and also plays its “part for the safe return of football” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The tournament, comprised of five regional football champions and host country league winners, was scheduled to be hosted in December but was pushed back almost two months due to COVID-19.

The game between Mexico’s Tigres UANL and Ulsan Hyundai FC from South Korea will open the tournament on Thursday afternoon with Qatar’s Al Duhail taking on African champions Al Ahly of Egypt later in the day.

The winners of that game will take on European champions Bayern Munich of Germany in the semi-finals on February 8.

Brazil’s Palmeiras, CONMEBOL Libertadores winners, complete the lineup for this year’s tournament.

Last month, Auckland City withdrew from the event due to quarantine measures required by New Zealand’s authorities giving Al Duhail a bye into the second round.

Mexican fans cheer for their team in Doha ahead of the Club World Cup [CWC Organising Committee]

Due to COVID-19-related restrictions, the tournament venues – Education City and Ahmad Bin Ali stadiums – will operate at 30 percent capacity.

To be allowed inside the stadiums, fans will require a negative COVID-19 test taken in the 72 hours prior to the match, proof of contracting the virus after October 1, 2020 or proof of vaccination.

According to the organisers, “players and officials will be part of a strict medical bubble system” that would include “regular COVID-19 testing, safe transportation methods and regular disinfection of tournament venues, including training and media facilities”.

“This event is important for us in preparation for the World Cup 2022. However, we’re holding this edition in completely different circumstances [compared to the 2019 edition also hosted by Qatar],” said Qatar 2022 chief executive Nasser Al Khater.

“We’re hosting it during a global pandemic which is obviously very difficult but it’s also important for us to make sure we play our part for the safe return of football.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies