DUBAI // Majed Hassan, the UAE international, has welcomed the Asian Football Confederation's decision to grant the Emirates the 2019 Asian Cup, saying it should serve as motivation for the national team to take the title in four years' time.
The UAE were awarded the continental showpiece on Monday, when they were preferred to Iran in the vote. It marks the second time the UAE have been chosen to stage the Asian Cup following the 1996 tournament, where they finished runners-up to Saudi Arabia.
At the most recent Asian Cup, which took place in January, the UAE placed third - their best performance on foreign soil. Hassan was part of Mahdi Ali’s squad in Australia, making three appearances. Looking ahead to the 2019 Asian Cup, the Al Ahli midfielder highlighted the Emirates’ history of organising major tournaments as reason to believe it will prove a success.
In the past, the UAE have hosted the 2003 Fifa World Youth Championship, the 2009 and 2010 Fifa Club World Cups and the 2013 Fifa Under-17 World Cup. The Asian Cup, expanded from 16 to 24 teams for 2019, represents the most prestigious tournament to be played here.
“The UAE are no strangers to hosting major football events,” Hassan said. “We’ve hosted the Asian Cup before, as well as the FIFA U17 World Cup. It’s something that gives us a lot of pride and it’s also a huge positive for us to play on home soil, among our home fans. Hopefully it will encourage us to win the title.”
Scheduled for January 2019, at present the Asian Cup will be spread across six stadiums in three emirates: Zayed Sports City and Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi; Hazza bin Zayed Stadium and Khalifa International Stadium in Al Ain; and Dubai’s stadium under construction in Dubai Sports City, as well as the Dubai International Cricket Ground.
Cosmin Olaroiu, the Ahli coach, said the improvements to infrastructure that will be made between now and the tournament will be only beneficial to the sport in the UAE.
“It’s a fantastic thing for the Emirates,” he said. “It’s something that I hope they will develop a new infrastructure for all football in the Emirates. For sure, this will help develop football here for the future.
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