Their teams may be home bound, but for fans of Mexico’s CD Guadalajara and Espérance Sportive de Tunis of Tunisia, the memories of their respective sides’ travails in the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 will live long in the memory.
The CONCACAF and CAF champions, both beaten in their second-round matches earlier this week, played out a 1-1 draw on Wednesday evening at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, before the African champions sealed fifth-place in the resulting penalty shoot-out. And while fans from both clubs bemoaned their earlier results, they share positive memories of their time in the UAE.
“Al Ain is a beautiful city and the people are extremely nice and welcoming. The tournament was great and although we didn’t get the result that was expected from the team, we had a wonderful time and are leaving with a smile. We would love to visit again,” said Santiago Pareira, 52, who travelled 14,441 kilometres from Guadalajara to follow his beloved Chivas.
For Espérance fans, who numbered in excess of 5,000 at both their Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium matches, the feeling was mutual.
“The competition is amazing. I’ve enjoyed every bit of the experience. We could have played better against Al Ain, but they won fair and square and were better than us. I am forever grateful to have visited the UAE and feel the hospitality of the Emirati people. Watching my team play in one of the biggest stages in world football was the icing on the cake,” said Wissam Al Kazdaghli, 42, who flew the 4,400 kilometres from Tunis to Abu Dhabi for the tournament.
Mohammad Al Juradi, 28, one of the estimated 20,000 Tunisian expatriates living in the UAE, revealed he is now rooting for Al Ain FC, the tournament hosts, for the remainder of the tournament.
“I always feel happy to come to Al Ain city – it has a spark, something very special – it feels like the heart of the nation. Now I support Al Ain for making me and all my Tunisian brothers and sisters feel at home during the competition,” said Mohammad Al Juradi, 28.