Greeted with overwhelming indifference in Europe, the Club World Cup is still seen as the pinnacle of club football elsewhere as thousands of San Lorenzo fans demonstrated this week. An estimated 9,000 fans made the tortuous and costly trip from Buenos Aires to Marrakech to witness what they believed was the most important week in their club’s history.
Goalkeeper Sebastian Torrico said before Saturday’s final against Real Madrid, won 2-0 by the European champions, that it would be “the most important game of my life” and coach Edgardo Bauza expressed similar sentiments. “It’s the match all the players want to play. This is the most important game at club level,” he said.
“At my age this is like touching heaven,” added 34-year-old team captain Juan Mercier. “I’ve played a lot of second division football and reached the top flight at a late age, so I never thought I’d ever be in a situation like this, about to take on Real Madrid.”
San Lorenzo had become almost obsessed by the tournament since winning the South American Libertadores Cup five months ago.
Until the 1990s, the South American champions used to compete on equal terms with their European counterparts and led by 13 titles to 12 when the old Intercontinental Cup was scrapped in 2004. But Europe leads by seven wins to three under the new format.
While the European sides reinforce their teams in the six months between winning the Champions League and taking part in the club cup, the opposite happens with teams from the rest of the world where winning a title means the best players get sold.
Nevertheless, the chance to pit themselves against teams such as Real Madrid remains a huge pull for the likes of San Lorenzo and their mainly journeyman players.
The semi-professionals of Auckland City were another team who had no complaints about the tournament. “It’s a luxury to come to a tournament like this and play against high level team,” said City’s coach Ramon Tribulietx.