Football fans throughout the continent are gearing up for the biggest-ever AFC Asian Cup which kicks off in just 50 days’ time in the United Arab Emirates.
For the first time, 24 nations will compete for the most prestigious prize in Asian football in what will be the biggest sporting event to be held in the region.
With the action kicking-off on January 5, 2019 when hosts UAE take on Bahrain at Zayed Sports City stadium in Abu Dhabi, the exciting build-up has already seen thousands of fans participate in a wide range of exciting activations, which is spreading enthusiasm for the tournament throughout communities.
Speaking on the countdown to the competition, Tournament Director for the Local Organising Committee, His Excellency Aref Hamad Al Awani commented: “Before the first ball has even been kicked, this is already the biggest sporting event we’ve ever hosted because so many have played a part in setting the stage.
“We have received so much energy and enthusiasm from the communities, and this in turn drives our determination to ensure that the stadiums and facilities are ready for a spectacular tournament to take place.
“Now I call on people to bring that drive to the matches, show their support and really get behind their countries wherever possible.”
The UAE’s largest-ever schools’ programme has reached more than 75,000 youngsters with an engaging programme comprising educational football challenges, introducing them to the cultures of the 24 participating Asian nations and inspiring students to lend their support throughout the tournament.
Women’s participation in sport also got a big boost from the UAE’s first involvement with the AFC’s ‘It’s My Game’ initiative, which witnessed a large number of attendees join in on inspiring career talks and grassroots football activities led by the UAE Women’s national team.
AFC General Secretary Dato’ Windsor John said: “Across the Continent, the focus has now shifted to the UAE and there is an undeniable sense of excitement among Asia’s passionate fans.
After four years of incredible hard work, we are now just days away from the biggest and best-ever edition of the AFC Asian Cup. Together with the LOC, the AFC is committed to creating a true celebration and festival for our fans, one that will showcase Asian football at its finest.
Football fans of all ages were presented with opportunities to test their mettle, with dozens of amateur teams competing in the Community Tournaments while Interactive Roadshows toured throughout the UAE, enabling visitors take on the crossbar challenge and compete in shooting accuracy drills.
With enthusiasm throughout the region at an all-time high, volunteering roles were significantly oversubscribed to fill the available 4,000 spaces which make up key responsibilities throughout the four-week tournament.
On the ground, significant enhancements have been made across all eight stadiums, from external fan zones, to enhancing ticketing systems and catering facilities, alongside the installation of tens of thousands of additional seats to allow a range of ticket choices throughout the tournament.
Tickets are easily available for fans to purchase for games online via www.asiancup2019.com with supporters encouraged to get their tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.