Football stars past and present kicked-off the country’s biggest-ever schools festival today, which will see over 75,000 children ‘Adopt a Nation’ ahead of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
UAE national players Mohanad Salem and Rayan Yaslam, along with AFC Asian Cup ambassadors Zuhair Bakheet and Majed Abdullah were welcomed to an action-packed day with young football fans at the Hazza Bin Zayed stadium in Al-Ain, as part of a football-led educational event. School festival in Al Ain will be held on 22 and 23 October and will be open for general public from 4pm-10pm.
In the leadup to the biggest and best AFC Asian Cup in history, children across the country are honing their skills in areas such as leadership and problem-solving through football. They are also being exposed to a new culture as each school prepares to offer a warm welcome and cheer on their adopted visiting teams throughout the tournament this January.
Speaking at the school football event, UAE 2019 Local Organising Committee, Tournament Director, His Excellency Aref Hamad Al Awani commented: “We are 75 days from tournament kick-off and already we can see the excitement shining from the smiles of hundreds of school children at these events, to the national team players and some of the biggest names in Asian football.
“Having such an event as part of the schools programme is the perfect way to show young football fans exactly what this tournament is about. Children are learning about new countries as we bring Asia together, along with football activities and life skills which will benefit them inside and outside the classroom.”
Rayan Yaslam UAE National Team added: “Football has given me so much throughout my career, so to give back in the schools is my passion. Seeing the excitement and enthusiasm among the children is great to see as I know they will bring this joy into the tournament, giving tremendous support for all our matches.”
Former UAE star and AFC ambassador Zuhair Bakheet spent time helping the children to perfect their football skills at the festival, commenting: “Everybody is here because of football and the power that it has to unite communities. Football has a power to bring people together and to instill values like teamwork and leadership. These children will go away from today having fun but also learning new skills they can use outside the classroom.”
The Schools Programme runs until the tournament launch in January, with more classroom visits throughout the country along with a number of large-scale school festivals for youngsters and families. The event in Dubai is due on 28-29 October; in Sharjah 31 October and 1 November; and in Abu Dhabi 4-5 November. All events will be open for public after 4pm.
With over 75,000 children taking part in the programme, it is one of the many community engagement activities in place ahead of the tournament which will see up to a million tickets available across the 51 games between 5 January-1 February. Tickets are available via www.asiancup2019.com.
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