Auckland City have been the centre of attention from local dignitaries and media upon their arrival in Morocco for the FIFA Club World Cup.
The travelling party landed in Tangiers after their flight from Barcelona, arriving to a VIP welcome and meet and greet with representatives from the Moroccan federation.
Coach Albert Riera spent time with an energetic media pack and spoke of his and the club’s affection for the country that will host his team over at least the next five days.
“We’re very excited to be here in Morocco. It’s a very important tournament for us. We have fond memories of Morocco, it’s a fantastic tournament with some powerful teams here.
“We’re very happy to be here, Morocco is a country that we love. The people are fantastic, everyone is very kind and hospitable. We’ve been here at different times and when we found out we were coming back to Morocco everyone was very happy back in New Zealand.
“We’ve been training very hard in Barcelona because we know the game with Al Ahly is going to be very tough. Every player we have in the squad is excited and is ready to go.
“I’ve been to Marrakesh myself so I’ve been lucky to have seen some of the country although it was a while ago. The club has been here twice before and once finished third in the tournament which is a very fond memory for us,” Riera said.
Main photo: Albert Riera meets the media.Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
Skipper Cam Howieson was also happy to acknowledge the warm welcome laid on by the Moroccan people in Tangier and Tétouan.
“The team are very happy with the welcome and have smiles on their faces. We’ve been preparing in Barcelona and played three games there and we’re here and ready to go,” he said.
After the end of the official welcome and media session, Auckland City FC travelled 90 minutes to the east to take up their team base camp at Tétouan where they will train for three days before relocating back to Tangier on 31 January.
Players Reid Drake and Jordan Vale joined the squad after missing the training camp in Salou, Catalonia, and will train with the rest of the squad at their team base camp at 5.00pm local time.
The game with Al Ahly is at the Ibn Batouta Stadium in Tangier on February 2 (NZT) with the winner advancing to the quarter-finals where Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer await.
That match takes place on February 5, 2023, (NZT) at the same venue.
Our thanks to Auckland City Media for providing this report.
FIFA Club World Cup (1st round)
Game to be played on Thursday February 2, 2023
Auckland City v Al Ahly (Egypt)
Tangiers, Morocco (8am NZT)