Thursday 23 November 2017, 10:32

Boussoufa: We want to put Al Jazira on the map

  • Midfielder Mbark Boussoufa helped Morocco reach the FIFA World Cup

  • At 33, he is set to appear in his first FIFA Club World Cup

  • Boussoufa: “The fans here can't wait and neither can we”

Moroccan midfielder Mbark Boussoufa will long remember 2017, a year in which he helped his national team qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ following a 20-year absence from the event.

And there could be more to come for the attacking midfielder. The winner of many an individual and collective honour in his career, he will be vying for more accolades when he runs out with Emirati side Al Jazira at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 in December.

Boussoufa is one of Al Jazira’s more experienced players and the club’s Dutch coach Henk ten Cate will be banking on him to lead the way for the “pride of Abu Dhabi” when they take on the world’s best. sat down with the Moroccan to discuss his extensive experience, his team’s preparations for the Club World Cup and his objectives for the tournament. For someone who has played in the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League, what does the chance to play at the FIFA Club World Cup mean to you? Mbark Boussoufa: The Club World Cup is a different competition to the Champions League and the Europa League because it’s much shorter. I’ve never played in it before. This year’s Club World Cup will be special because it’s taking place in the Emirates. Al Jazira, who are based in the city of Abu Dhabi, will be representing the host country and the Emirates will be welcoming the champions of each continent.

Having played against the likes of AC Milan, Bayern Munich and Liverpool, you have a lot of experience. How will you be drawing on that to help Al Jazira in this competition? All the clubs taking part in the Club World Cup are big teams. They won’t be easy opponents because they’re all continental champions, while Al Jazira are just champions of the Emirates. We’ll need to be at our very best if we’re going to get the better of these teams, and that means preparing well and making the most of all our potential.

This is Al Jazira’s first appearance at the Club World Cup. What are you hoping to achieve in the competition? We want to go as far as we can. This is the first time that we’ll be representing the Emirates at the Club World Cup and we hope that the fans will come out in force to support us.

Your opponents in the first round are Auckland City of New Zealand, who are taking part in their ninth Club World Cup. Is that going to be an advantage for them? We’ll have to wait and see. Auckland City are Club World Cup regulars and they know what to expect. I’ve never seen them play and we haven’t studied them yet because the competition begins in two weeks. We’re going to put that straight and try to qualify for the second round.

Emirati clubs have not had a lot of success in the competition to date. Al Wahda reached the quarter-finals one year and Al Ahli were knocked out in the first round. Do you think Al Jazira can do better this time? Al Ahli and Al Wahda are two great teams with a long history and you have to respect their results. We are representing the whole of the Emirates and we need to give our very best, without comparing ourselves to Al Ahli and Al Wahda. We also want to make sure Al Jazira’s name is known around the world.

You made the move to Abu Dhabi a year and a half ago. What kind of support are Al Jazira going to get as the home club? The fans will be there to support us. I’m happy to be in the capital. It’s a fantastic city and there are a lot of things to do.

The competition starts in two weeks. Can you feel the buzz that comes with a global event like this? How are the preparations going? Everyone at the club wants to take part in the competition. We’ll be upping our preparations in the next couple of weeks, people are going to take an interest in the matches and the media are going to focus more on the competition.

Some big clubs will be coming to the United Arab Emirates. Do you think people will be following them? All the clubs taking part have lots of supporters, who will be coming to the Emirates to cheer them on. Real Madrid are a very popular side around the world and in the Emirates. Abu Dhabi and the whole country will be in the spotlight during the competition. Football fans can’t wait to for the competition to start and neither can we.