Community ambassadors of all nationalities from across Asia came together at Zayed Sports City Stadium for a rousing evening of speeches, workshops and celebration, in the lead up to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
Over 60 ambassadors or “Playmakers” representing 19 of the 24 competing nations were welcomed by HE Aref Al Awani, with the LOC Tournament Director challenging the group to deliver the best AFC Asian Cup in history, during the welcome event in the Royal Box of the 43,000-seat stadium, which will stage the highly-anticipated opener on January 5, 2019 as well as the final match on February 1, 2019.
Addressing the group, His Excellency Aref Al Awani said: “Just as a football team needs players working in harmony, for us to succeed, the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 needs to be a tournament for every single football fan, from every country and culture across the continent. The Playmakers Programme reflects our ambition to partner with the real super-fans, community influencers and football lovers who will infuse the tournament with their enthusiasm. I have no doubt that they will inspire others to do the same.”
Breaking off into small groups during the evening, the Playmakers worked together to brainstorm grassroots initiatives that would appeal and speak directly to their own communities. The evening culminated with a group photo on the pitch of Zayed Sports City, which was lit up for the occasion.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) General Secretary, Dato’ Windsor John said: “This is the biggest ever AFC Asian Cup so it is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the sheer scope and scale of Asian football and the Playmakers is the perfect programme to bring everyone together.
“Having so many enthusiastic community ambassadors working together exemplifies the unifying power of football and the significant difference it holds to unite communities, not just in the UAE, but all across the continent.”
The diverse group of Playmakers at the welcome event included a Vice-President of a major company, an airline pilot, a nurse, several former professional footballers, coaches and more, all with a love for football and the desire to bring their nations together for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019. As the tournament approaches, the Playmakers will be organising community events, posting on social media and ensuring that tickets are readily available to football fans from their respective nations.
Speaking at the welcome event, Jessica Cullen, a cheerful 15-year-old football enthusiast who was selected as a playmaker for Australia commented: “My family and I have been following the Australian team since the last Asian Cup and now a lot of my non-Australian friends are really looking forward to seeing them come to the UAE in January to defend their title. As Playmakers, we can spread the same spirit to bring people to cheer their countries and support their friends.”
The response to the Playmakers programme has been overwhelmingly positive with many UAE-based embassies and business councils confirming their interest in participating and offering to help communicate tournament news, offers and developments.
There is still time for more football enthusiasts to become Playmakers and make a difference in their communities. Dedicated individuals can represent their countries as community ambassadors, generating their own events, social media campaigns and excitement around the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, by registering their interest at firstname.lastname@example.org
For the latest AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 news and information please go to http://www.afcasiancup2019.com/.