Asian football's biggest international tournament has been expanded to 24 teams
UAE hailed as 'the perfect host' as 2019 Asian Cup tickets go on sale
Tickets for the 2019 Asian Cup go on sale on Monday, as the UAE prepares to host the tournament for only the second time in its history.
The event, the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) marquee competition, takes place from January 5 - February 1 and for the first time has been expanded from 16 teams to 24.
Eight stadiums have been selected to host the 51 matches across Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Al Ain and Sharjah. The tournament represents the biggest football event to be staged in the Emirates, eclipsing the 12-team 1996 Asian Cup in which the UAE finished runner-up.
Tickets are available from 12pm UAE time on Monday, and begin at Dh25 for the group stages. Tickets for the final, held at Zayed Sports City on February 1, start at Dh75 and rise to Dh300.
"The launch of ticket sales is an important milestone and the UAE is the perfect host nation to unite the Asian football family," said Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), in a statement.
"I am confident that the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 will provide the ultimate stage to showcase Asia’s remarkable talent and engage and excite more fans than ever before.
"In the [Local Organising Committee], we have a trusted partner who share our ambitions of 'Bringing Asia Together' and to deliver the most competitive and accessible AFC Asian Cup to date."
As hosts, the UAE kick off the tournament on January 5 against Bahrain in Abu Dhabi, with Thailand and India taking up the other two slots in Group A. Defending champions Australia contest Group B alongside Syria, Jordan and Palestine, while Saudi Arabia have been placed in Group E alongside Qatar, Lebanon and North Korea.
Tournament organisers say they do not envision any problems arising from the Qatari national team’s participation in the tournament.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic relations with Qatar in June 2017 over its support for extremist groups.
"Sport is not affected by politics," said Aref Al Awani, tournament director of the Local Organising Committee. "We are welcoming everybody from all the countries to come and attend and to participate in the tournament.
"The UAE, through high mission which represents peace, tolerance, happiness, and openness, welcomes all teams and all nationals of the Asian continent to attend and watch this big continental event.
"This great participation is a big focus for the Higher Local Committee as it reflects the potential of the UAE and its great capabilities in organising the biggest and most important global and continental sporting events.”