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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

UAE awarded hosting rights for 2019 Asian Cup

The UAE was named the host nation for the 2019 Asian Cup on Monday, edging Iran and returning the competition to the Emirates after first hosting in 1996.
The UAE finished third at the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia. Edgar Su / Reuters / January 30, 2015
The UAE finished third at the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia. Edgar Su / Reuters / January 30, 2015

The president of the Football Association said the award of the 2019 Asian Cup demonstrates the UAE’s strong reputation for staging both major regional and international events.

The Emirates yesterday won the right to host Asia’s premier football tournament for a second time, following a meeting of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in Bahrain.

The UAE was preferred ahead of Iran in the vote.

Having previously organised a series of high-profile events, such as the 1996 Asian Cup, the 2003 Fifa World Youth Championship, the 2009 and 2010 Fifa Club World Cups and the 2013 Fifa Under 17 World Cup, the UAE will stage its largest and most prestigious football tournament. The 2019 Asian Cup has been expanded from 16 national teams to 24.

Yousef Al Serkal, the FA president, said the UAE was chosen because of its powerful leadership and proven record of staging big events, and said that plans are in place to form a delegation to begin preparing for the event.

“Winning the bid to host the Asian Cup presents us with a big challenge,” he said. “I hope we will be able to successfully hold the tournament in a way that reflects the good reputation of the UAE as a capable host of major global events.”

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The Asian Cup was last held in the UAE in 1996, when Saudi Arabia defeated the hosts in the final, via a penalty shootout. Having finished third at the most recent Asian Cup, in January, Mahdi Ali’s side are currently ranked fifth on the continent, behind Iran, South Korea, Japan and Australia, the reigning champions.

Taking place in January 2019, at present the competition will be spread across six stadiums in three emirates: Zayed Sports City and Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi; Hazza bin Zayed Stadium and Khalifa International Stadium in Al Ain; and Dubai’s stadium under construction in Dubai Sports City, as well as the Dubai International Cricket Ground.

Mohammed bin Thaloob, the UAE bid chairman, said the backing of Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed was integral to the victory. He also thanked the AFC for entrusting the Emirates with its showpiece event.

“The continent’s confidence in our proposal will make us thrive from now to ensure we host a historical edition that will live long in the memory, as we did in 1996,” Bin Thaloob said.

“This is not new for our country, which has gained experience from holding many regional, continental and international events since then, the last of which was the 2013 Fifa U17 World Cup.”

Poor attendances have been cited as a problem area for the UAE in the past, but the bid committee is confident the tournament will attract significant numbers.

“I don’t think this will be a problem,” said Mohammed Ibrahim Al Mahmoud, managing director at Abu Dhabi Media and a member of the bid committee. “We have many Asian communities living in the UAE, so there will be enough spectators present.

“Of course, it is not easy to organise such a huge event, with so many people visiting the country, but I think we will offer a good example to other countries when we host the event.

“We have made a lot of progress and are capable of overcoming many things.”

The AFC president, Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, said the UAE were always frontrunners to be awarded the tournament, especially after the governing body’s inspectors had examined the infrastructure in place during a visit to the Emirates last month.

“It was clear from the onset the UAE was going to win the bid,” Sheikh Salman said. “It’s a deserved victory. I would say the decision was pretty easy, that it was not difficult because of the strong bidding process of the UAE. I am confident the 2019 Asian Cup will be a huge success.”

On the UAE’s capacity to accommodate the expanded competition, Sheikh Salman said: “The UAE have the ability to handle that. All modifications were made by the competition committee, including the change of going from 16 to 24 teams, which will give the opportunity for smaller national teams to take part.

“Also, we will give the smaller teams the opportunity to improve their performance by facing stronger teams.”

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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