2019 Asian Cup in UAE tipped to outshine Australia

2019 Asian Cup in UAE tipped to outshine Australia
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Published March 11th, 2015 - 05:36 GMT via SyndiGate.info

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Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa
Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa

The President of the Asian Football Confederation, Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, believes the UAE has the potential to host a superior Asian Cup in 2019 to the “stunning” one held in Australia in January.

Shaikh Salman was speaking after the UAE won a unanimous vote over Iran to stage the continental football showpiece, following a meeting of the AFC’s Executive Committee in Manama on Monday.

Meanwhile, UAE Football Association (UAE FA) President Yousuf Al Sarkal was jubilant at the decision, lavishing praise on the country’s government for its support with the bid.

Shaikh Salman said: “I would like to congratulate the UAE Football Association on their successful bid to host the AFC Asian Cup 2019.

“The AFC Executive Committee was convinced by the merits of the UAE bid. I firmly believe that the UAE Football Association will host a tournament that could match, and potentially even surpass, the stunning AFC Asian Cup 2015 in Australia that we have all just witnessed.”

Al Sarkal praised President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and also congratulated His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai; His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces; Members of the Supreme Council and Rulers of the Emirates; Shaikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, National Security Adviser and Honorary President of the UAE FA; and the people of the UAE and its sports community.

“The success of the UAE bid to host the 17th edition of the continent’s premier football championship is evidence of the strong position occupied by the UAE within the Asian countries and the excellent links it has established,” he said.

“I would like also to praise the efforts of supervisors of the UAE bid and the huge solidarity demonstrated by all government institutions, which contributed to winning the bid to host the continental event and raise the country’s flag.”

It will be the second time that the UAE would be staging Asia’s premier football tournament, having previously hosted it in 1996, when the home side lost a penalty shoot-out in the final to Saudi Arabia.

The Whites finished third in the recent event in Australia, losing 2-0 to the hosts and winners in the semi-finals, before overcoming Iraq 3-2 in a thrilling third-place play-off.

Six stadia will be used for the January 2019 event, which will be expanded from 16 teams to 24. The stadia that will host the event include Zayed Sports City and Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi; Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium and Khalifa International Stadium in Al Ain; a 25,000-seater stadium under construction in Dubai Sports City; and the Dubai International Cricket Ground.

The UAE and Iran were the only contenders to host the Asian Cup after mooted bids from China, Bahrain, Lebanon, Malaysia, Oman, Thailand and Saudi Arabia failed to came to fruition.

The AFC assessed both countries’ bids on criteria such as stadia, transport, infrastructure, hotels, visas and various other sporting, logistical and administrative issues.

The UAE’s laudable track record of having staged several major international football tournaments is believed to have been crucial to the body’s decision. The UAE hosted the 1996 Asian Cup, the 2003 Fifa World Youth Championship, the 2009 and 2010 Fifa Club World Cups and the 2013 Fifa Under-17 World Cup.

The UAE has a tough task in following Australia, where the total attendance soared to 650,000 and games sold out in all five host cities.

But Al Serkal said: “We managed to fill the stadiums on that occasion (1996) — I think we can do the same [again],” he said. “It will not be a problem.

“If we needed to host the competition starting next week we could still host it successfully. The infrastructure is there, we have enough stadiums, we have enough facilities, training fields. Everything is there.”

Asia’s 46 national teams will take part in a three-round qualifiying process for the 2019 tournament, with the first two stages doubling up as qualification for the 2018 Fifa World Cup. The UAE are guaranteed entry to the former as hosts and will enter the second round, which begins in June.

© Al Nisr Publishing LLC 2015. All rights reserved.

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