The Matchworld Cup was an international exhibition football club competition which was hosted by the United Arab Emirates. However, the competition was expected to be an annual tournament that will be played by the biggest football teams in the region. For some unresolved and unfamiliar circumstances, the Matchworld Cup was only held from 2011 to 2013. The winners of the Matchworld Cup were Al-Hilal in 2011, Zenit St. Petersburg in 2012, and finally Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013.
All the matches in the first two Matchworld Cups were held in Dubai, while the third competition was held in Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium. It is necessary to mention that the competition was organized by Matchworld Football SA, as well as Saudi Arabia’s RPM Sports Management, and Russia’s Sportlive. This competition was an excellent opportunity to promote one of the greatest sports in the world in this region and also to offer the sports fans the chance to enjoy football.
The rules for the competition were not strictly decided which resulted in different number of matches and teams playing each year. During the first year, in 2011 there were six clubs playing at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai. These clubs included Persepolis from Iran, Žilina from Slovakia which competed for the third place and finalists Zenit St. Petersburg from Russia and Al-Hilal from Saudi Arabia. After 1-1 in regular time, the two finalists moved on to the penalty shooting where Al-Hilal won with the result 4-1.
In 2012 there were eight teams among which Bunyodkor from Uzbekistan and Shakhtar Donetsk from Ukraine and finalists Uzbekistan representation U-23 and once again Zenit St. Petersburg. In the finals, Zenit defeated the Uzbekistan U-23 with the result 5-0.
However, in 2013, there were only four teams which played their matches at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. These were Zamalek from Egypt, Al-Hilal from Saudi Arabia and finalists Shakhtar Donetsk and Zenit.
When it comes to particular teams which were fighting for the title, FC Zenit was certainly the most common one since it appeared on all three competitions even though they have a lot of success in their own league as well as in European competitions. However, their presence in the tournament was interesting and welcomed because of great football stars which played for the team at the time such as Alex Witsel and Hulk. Furthermore, this is the team which was not ready to give up without winning the competition.
The other team which appeared twice in the competition and also won one Matchworld Cup was FC Shakhtar Donetsk. The team at the time had talented Brazilian duo Luiz Adriano – Willian which made people expect a lot from these Ukrainian champions. In addition, they were the only team in the tournament which could offer the stiffest challenge to Zenit St. Petersburg. Their recent success inspired many teams around the world to play despite the harsh circumstances they face on a daily basis. They were equally inspiring and amazing for the fans in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi who carefully watched the matches which Shakhtar played.
However, for the audience, it was far more important to observe the possibilities of their own teams such as Al Hilal FC. They were enjoyed watching their club against the winners of UEFA Cups, as well as against other foreign teams. They were also determined to cheer and support them like in the greatest football competitions. Even though the Saudi Arabian team has won their domestic league 13 times, the Saudi King’s Cup six times, the Crown Prince Cup 11 times and the AFC Champions League winners twice the fans were eager to see them play against teams such as Zenit and Shakhtar Donetsk since they were more oriented towards European football.
Other teams even though unable to make better results were also welcomed properly by the football fans in the UAE. However, it is uncertain why was the Matchworld Cup held only three times. Since then, football in the United Arab Emirates became one of the major sports, and a lot of projects have been done in order to popularize this sport in the region. However, this did not stop rich companies and individuals from the country to further invest football teams around the world.