Army of UAE volunteers prepare to deliver biggest Asian Cup ever
Volunteers speak 41 languages and come from 131 countries
Volunteers from 131 countries will help to deliver the biggest Asian Cup in history once it kicks off on Saturday.
Around 5,000 people have been chosen to help with the football showpiece, with duties including welcoming teams, helping manage venues and offering hospitality.
The Asian Cup, held every four years, has this year been expanded to include 24 teams. The UAE will take on Bahrain in the first match, at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Training has been offered to those who have offered to volunteer, with people giving up their time also set to prove crucial in delivering the Special Olympics, in March, and Expo 2020 in Dubai.
Their job will be “to spread the excitement and magic of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 to every single person living in the UAE,” said Ahmed Al Qubaisi, director of marketing and communications for the Local Organising Committee.
“Volunteers are the heart and soul of every major sporting event,” he said.
“The AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 is no exception and we owe everything to these community heroes who will work tirelessly behind the scenes, so that everyone attending games can have an experience that will live long in the memory.
“This is the biggest sporting event that has ever been held in the UAE and preparation for what is to come is absolutely key.”
There were more than 23,000 applications for volunteering places, organisers said. The level of interest is a sign of the support for the event from the UAE public, according to Mohammad Al Shateri, volunteer manager for the local organising committee.
Over two days in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain volunteers took part in seminars and sessions to get them ready for the tournament, which runs until February 1. The youngest volunteer is 16 and the oldest is 84. The army of helpers speak 41 languages between them.
One of the volunteers to receive training is Mohammad, aged 23.
“Helping to deliver this football tournament is a dream come true," he said.
"To combine my love of volunteering with football is something that really excites me, and I now just can’t wait for kick off."
The success in attracting volunteers follows appeals for people to help with the Special Olympics and Expo 2020 in Dubai.
The UAE is hoping to find 20,000 people to help stage the Special Olympics, which will also be the largest event of its kind ever held.
The games will run from March 14 to 21 and will involve 7,000 athletes from more than 170 countries competing in 24 sports. At the Special Olympics IX MENA Games 2018 in the UAE, over 3,000 volunteers of all ages and nationalities gave more than 50,000 hours of their time to support more than 1,000 athletes from 31 countries.
Meanwhile, it is hoped that 30,000 volunteers will be persuaded to help with Expo 2020 Dubai. It is planned that thousands of volunteers will work a total of 1.2 million shifts over the six-month period from October 2020 to April 2021 during an event being described as the largest global gathering to be staged in the Middle East.
Updated: January 4, 2019 10:39 AM