Ireland - Sunday 21st Dec. 2008 12.15pm
Sitting on my couch at home, I let out a massive cheer as the referee blew the final whistle that proclaimed Manchester United Champions of England and Europe at the time as Champions of Planet Earth (has a nice ring to it actually).
About 10 minutes later, I receive a phone call from my dad and cousin, who were in Japan for the tournament—and have to hold the phone about four feet from my ear as a deafening roar comes down the line followed by them and a few of the other lads singing "Obladi Oblada Man United, Champions of Planet Earth."
I think they broke the earpiece on the phone with the noise.
Anyway, enough reminiscing, on to the point of my article. It's a great feeling and one that brings a grin to my face whenever I say it—to be able to call our great club Champions of the World, even if the English media have largely ignored the feat. But the tournament has come into criticism for not featuring more "glamorous" clubs.
Of the seven participants—LDU Quito, Manchester United, Pachuca, Gamba Osaka, Al-Ahly, Waitakere United, and Adelaide United—only Manchester United would be considered a "big" team, with the rest being relatively unknown outside of their own continents.
It was this lack of big teams that lead to many fans and journalists writing off the tournament as "worthless". A look at the facts suggests otherwise.
The tournament should only be open to those teams who are currently champions of their respective continents—which it was. It shouldn't just be made up of the big names like Barcelona, Milan, River Plate, Boca Juniors, etc just because they would be a more attractive lineup.
The likes of Quito and Al-Ahly were there because they won the main trophy on their continent, not because they were "well known" or "a big team" or various other reasons used to make the tournament seem worthless.
It was a fair reflection on each continents best team in 2008. The same will happen in 2009 and 2010, and so on. For example: Quito—who played Manchester United in the final—beat two Argentinean, one Mexican, and one Brazilian team to win the Copa Libertadores after qualifying from their group stage. Hardly an easy job for a team made up primarily of Ecuadorian players (no offence intended to Ecuador or its citizens).
Most public opinion is that European teams are the strongest in the world, closely followed by South American, with North American, African, Asian and Oceanic teams lagging a bit behind—due to the fact that their best players usually end up plying their trade in Europe or South America, so it is understandable that people consider the tournaments participants un-challenging and un-entertaining.
One final fact, a look at the attendance figures for 2007 and 2008 suggests those people who wrote off the tournament were wrong. In the 2007 tournament—which featured Boca Juniors and AC Milan—both considered "Massive" clubs (unlike Manchester City, who are constant laughing stocks), the total attendance figure for the tournament was 318,871.
Whereas the 2008 tournament—with Manchester United as its main draw—had a total attendance figure of 355,515. Not bad, for considering it only had one "Big" team.
To summarise, The FIFA Club World Cup, will forever be derided by some as a "worthless" tournament, a snide attempt at getting bums on seats in the Far East—or the United Arab Emirates for the next two years anyways—but it is the only one of its kind that pits the champions of each continent against each other for the right to call themselves the Champions of the World.
Manchester United earned that right this season.
Without further ado, I will finish with this (all you United fans will like the sound of this): Manchester United, Champions of England, Champions of Europe, and Champions of PLANET EARTH!!!