Analysis: Club Cup a reminder of soccer's great divide

Sun Dec 22, 2013 6:17am EST
 
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By Brian Homewood

MARRAKECH, Morocco (Reuters) - For the estimated 10,000 Atletico Mineiro fans who made the arduous journey from Belo Horizonte to Marrakech, the Club World Cup was the most important competition their team had ever played in.

Ever since winning the Libertadores Cup in July, the Brazilian club and its supporters have been dreaming obsessively of a chance to measure themselves against European champions Bayern Munich in the final.

In the event, they suffered a shock semi-final defeat to Raja Casablanca, who in turn faced the Bavarians in Saturday's decider.

That match brought Morocco to a standstill, thousands of Raja fans made the trip south and the game was attended by King Mohamed.

In Europe, the same event is often regarded as a mid-season excursion to play unknown teams with exotic names, a view summed up by Borussia Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp's reference to the classic movie "Casablanca".

"The last time I heard about Casablanca was when Humphrey Bogart was playing," Klopp quipped. "Maybe someday it (the competition) will be of a higher value."

In many ways, the competition acts as a reminder of the great divide between European club football, which attracts the very best players, and the rest of the world, which acts as its feeder.

European sides such as Bayern Munich are replete with top talent from around the world and even most of their substitutes are regular internationals for their respective countries.   Continued...

 
Raja Casablanca's fans celebrate winning their FIFA Club World Cup semi-final soccer match against Atletico Mineiro at Marrakech stadium December 18, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh