CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA (AP) — South Africa is interested in hosting FIFA’s Club World Cup in December after Japan withdrew because of COVID-19, South African Football Association President Danny Jordaan said on Monday.
Jordaan told The Associated Press (AP) he would meet with FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura in Lagos, Nigeria this week to get more details on what kind of bid South Africa must present to the world body to host the seven-team men’s tournament.
The Club World Cup will feature European champion Chelsea and the other five continental club competition winners. The league champion from the host country also get a place.
Japan withdrew last week amid fears the tournament would cause a rise in infections in a country that has just staged the Summer Olympics and Paralympics.
FIFA has yet to comment on the alternative host, with Saudi Arabia also keen to step in.
An extended 24-team Club World Cup was due to debut this year in China but it was shelved because the pandemic required the rescheduling of national team competitions in June and FIFA was unable to raise funding for the planned quadrennial event. So the seven-team format was extended for another year.
The South African Football Association must get government approval to hold the tournament and meetings with the sports minister were also planned, Jordaan said.
“We’ll know our position by the end of the week,” he said.
South Africa has numerous high-quality stadiums that were built or refurbished for the 2010 World Cup but any ambition to host the Club World Cup would depend on its own coronavirus situation.
South Africa went through a mid-year surge in cases and there has been a decrease in virus infections over the last two weeks. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an easing of restrictions countrywide on Sunday. The government is also formulating plans to allow spectators back into sports stadiums, most likely using vaccine passports, Ramaphosa said.
That would be a boost for plans to host the Club World Cup as no fans have been allowed at any major sports events in South Africa since the start of the pandemic. FIFA would likely not want its tournament to be played in empty stadiums.
Jordaan said the South African Football Association noted the government’s indication that it was ready to consider allowing sports fans back into stadiums.
South Africa is still the worst-affected country in Africa with more than 2.8 million virus cases.