From family members to lifelong friends, the diverse pool of volunteers taking part in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 have dedicated over 500,000 hours to support the largest-ever edition of the Continental showpiece, setting a record of unrivalled support.
With the competition increasing from 32 to 51 matches, the team of volunteers has significantly grown too, more than tripling the number of those deployed previously in Australia 2015.
Throughout the tournament, the 5,000 recruited volunteers, aged between 16-84 years-old, work up to eight hours a day across key areas such as protocol, accreditation and marketing, with each individual bringing their unique personality, warmth and generosity to the event: “It’s my passion and I like to use my free time to help people and my country and to show myself that I can do it,” explained Noura Jamal, 27, from Abu Dhabi.
Her passion is so clear that she manages her six hours a day of volunteering alongside her full-time job in the UAE capital: “I actually still require clearance for all the hours that I have put in, although I have had my manager’s permission to leave as long as I go back to finish my work, so it’s long hours but I am happy and proud to have achieved my aim of volunteering every day.”
The excitement around volunteering has grown significantly in the UAE, which can be attributed to the inspiring journeys from individuals sharing their experiences with families and friends.
Maryam Alhosani said: “My cousin would come home from volunteering and tell us about his experience and I used to ask him if he would take me with him, but he kept repeating - ‘when you’re older, when you’re older’.
“Now I have been volunteering for two years and I really enjoy it and the things that I am learning. It has changed my personality,” added Alhosani, who now works alongside her older cousin Shuhab Al Shehhi, in the ceremonies department, ensuring the great flag displays at each match are executed smoothly.
“We play an important part in this tournament and a lot of processes are in place for the ceremonies team to ensure the jerseys are straight, in line, and everybody knows their correct positions. This is just one small part but something that everybody watches in the stadium or on TV, so it has to be perfect,” described Shuhab.
Shuhab, who has volunteered numerous events over the years, summarised: “Through this tournament, we have seen so many different Asian cultures and I encourage people to get involved with volunteering whenever they have the opportunity.”
The highly-successful volunteers programme received an overwhelming response of over 23,000 applications from enthusiasts of all ages, hoping to be part of the biggest sporting event ever hosted in the region.
Supporters can still purchase tickets for the semi-finals and eagerly-anticipated final on February 1 online via www.afcasiancup2019.com and in Virgin Megastores outlets with prices starting from just Dhs25. Fans can also join in the conversation online and share their experiences of the tournament by using the hashtag #BringingAsiaTogether.