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Have Raja Casablanca Made a Mockery of the Club World Cup?

AGADIR, MOROCCO - DECEMBER 14:  Players of Casablanca celebrate after winning the FIFA Club World Cup Quarterfinal match between Raja Casablanca and CF Monterrey at Agadir Stadium on December 14, 2013 in Agadir, Morocco.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Lars Baron/Getty Images
Ryan BaileyFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2013

Did you know the FIFA Club World Cup is being played right now? Do you know where it is being staged? Could you name more than one of the teams taking part? 

If your answer to any of these questions is "yes," then you have more awareness than most football fans. 

On Saturday, the final of the 10th edition of the competition takes place at the Stade de Marrakech in Morocco. The competition pits the winners of each continental federation against each other, so, in theory, this game will determine the greatest club in the world.

In reality, however, the entire tournament is a spectacle that few take seriously, staged merely to satiate FIFA's marketing goals.

The 2013 competition makes an excellent case for the redundancy of the tournament. The participants include UEFA champions Bayern Munich, CONMEBOL winners Atletico Mineiro, CAF's Al-Ahly, CONCACAF's Monterrey, the OFC's Auckland City and AFC Champions League winners Guangzhou Evergrande.

From this list, it is quite evident that there is a lack of parity between the teams. Auckland City cannot be given a place in a tournament alongside Bayern Munich and be expected to hold their own—a fact proved by their elimination in the "play-off" round.

However, the true farce in the 2013 competition has been the underdog story of the seventh team, Raja Casablanca. The tournament always invites the winner of the host nation's domestic league to enter, and in this case it was the 2012/13 champions of the Moroccan Botola

AGADIR, MOROCCO - DECEMBER 14: Kouko Guehi of Casablanca celebrates after scoring his teams third goal during the FIFA Club World Cup Quarterfinal match between Raja Casablanca and CF Monterrey at Agadir Stadium on December 14, 2013 in Agadir, Morocco.  (
Lars Baron/Getty Images

Raja didn't even qualify for the CAF Champions League that Al-Ahly won to earn their spot, and defender Mohamed Oulhaj recently admitted that his side were "the weakest team on paper."

Football, of course, isn't played on paper. It's played on grass, and Raja have done surprisingly well. They beat Auckland in the first match, Monterrey in the quarter-final and on Wednesday evening, they defeated Atletico Mineiro 3-1. A superb free kick from Ronaldinho wasn't enough for the Brazilians, who were expected to ravage the host side. 

There is no greater symbol of the disparity between the sides than the sight of Raja's players mobbing Ronaldinho for his boots, keen for a souvenir from the legendary Brazilian. 

The Casablancans now face a David and Goliath matchup with Bayern Munich in the final. Yes, the match that should be between the two greatest teams on the planet will see Die Roten take on a side of semi-professional Moroccans.

Only once before has the invited host side made the final of the competition, but that was in 2000, with Campeonato winners Corinthians defeating Copa Libertadores champions Vasco da Gama at the Maracana in an all-Brazilian final. 

Allow me to remove my cynical hat for a moment to stress that Raja Casablanca's success should be celebrated. It is the kind of underdog story that makes this game we love so fantastic.

But, at the same time, their appearance in the final makes a mockery of the entire tournament. And frankly, the Club World Cup has enough reasons to be mocked already.   

 

Follow Ryan Bailey on Twitter 

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