After Japan withdrew due to COVID-19, South Africa is interested in hosting FIFA’s Club World Cup in December, according to South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan. Jordaan told The Associated Press that he will meet with FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura this week in Lagos, Nigeria, to learn more about the type of bid South Africa must submit to the world body to host the seven-team tournament.
Chelsea, the Champions League winner, will compete in the Club World Cup alongside the other continental club champions. A place is also awarded to the host country’s league champion. According to Jordaan, the South African Football Association must obtain government approval in order to host the tournament, and meetings with the sports minister are also planned. He stated, “By the end of the week, we’ll know our position.”
Last week, FIFA announced that Japan had withdrawn from the tournament due to the pandemic and concerns that it would spread infection in a country that had just hosted the Summer Olympics and Paralympics. South Africa has a number of high-quality stadiums that were built or renovated for the 2010 World Cup, but hosting the Club World Cup would be contingent on the country’s own coronavirus situation.
South Africa experienced a spike in cases in the middle of the year, but virus infections have decreased in the last two weeks, prompting President Cyril Ramaphosa to ease restrictions across the country on Sunday. According to Ramaphosa, the government is working on plans to allow spectators back into sports stadiums, most likely using vaccine passports. That would be good news for South Africa’s plans to host the Club World Cup, as no fans have been allowed at any major sporting events in the country since the outbreak began.
FIFA is unlikely to want its tournament to be held in stadiums that are nearly empty. The South African Football Association had taken note of the government’s statement that it was willing to consider allowing sports fans back into stadiums, according to Jordaan. With more than 2.8 million virus cases and more than 84,000 deaths reported, South Africa remains the worst-affected country in Africa, but there were less than 4,000 new cases reported on Sunday, down from more than 20,000 a day just a few months ago.
FIFA had planned for a new extended 24-team Club World Cup to be held in China this year, but the pandemic forced FIFA to postpone the event, and the seven-team format was extended for another year.