July 29, 2021

Auckland City withdrawal hands Olunga’s Al-Duhail SC Fifa Club World Cup slot

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The New Zealand outfit could not find a way around the Covid-19 restrictions in their country and had to give their place away

Harambee Stars forward Michael Olunga will for the first time appear in the Fifa Club World Cup after Al-Duhail SC earned a slot when Auckland City FC withdrew.

The New Zealand club withdrew from the global club competition due to strict coronavirus restrictions still active in their country. The Club World Cup was itself shifted from December 2020 to February 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and will be played in Qatar.

Fifa admitted they could not find a quick solution – especially around isolation and quarantine – to have Auckland City participate.

“Fifa has been informed by Auckland City FC that, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and related quarantine measures required by the New Zealand authorities, the club will be unable to participate in the Fifa Club World Cup 2020,” the world football governing body said.

 “Despite Fifa’s regular exchanges with the club, New Zealand Football and the OFC in recent days, the requirements of the New Zealand authorities in relation to isolation and quarantine go beyond Fifa’s remit and, therefore, it was not possible to reach a solution.”

German champions Bayern Munich are going to be Europe’s representatives as Olunga’s side, plus Al Ahly of Egypt – the Caf Champions League 2019 winners –, Ulsan Hyundai of South Korea, Tigres UANL of Mexico are the other contestants.

Brazilian sides Santos and Palmeiras will contest for the Copa Libertadores and the winner from the January 30 final will join the rest in Qatar.

“Following the withdrawal of Auckland City, the Fifa Club World Cup 2020 will be contested by Al-Duhail SC, Al Ahly SC, FC Bayern Munich, Ulsan Hyundai FC, Tigres UANL and the winners of the Conmebol Libertadores final scheduled for 30 January,” Fifa added.

Fifa confirmed strict health protocols will be implemented in order to safeguard the participants.

“Fifa together with the Qatari authorities will implement a comprehensive medical and security protocol providing the safeguards required to protect the health and safety of everyone involved in the competition,” it concluded.

“The first-round match will no longer take place and Al Duhail SC will begin the competition in the second round. The competition format remains otherwise unchanged.”

The draw for the tournament – last won by Liverpool – will take place on January 19 in Zurich, Switzerland.