UAE sign official AFC agreement to rubber-stamp role as Asian Cup 2019 hosts
ABU DHABI // Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), is confident the UAE will be a strong host when the Asian Cup expands to 24 teams in 2019.
The UAE was announced in March as host for the 2019 tournament and that was rubber-stamped after Thursday’s signing of an Organising Association Agreement with the AFC at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr Hotel in Abu Dhabi.
The only other time the UAE hosted the event was in 1996, when they finished runners-up to Saudi Arabia.
This year’s tournament in Australia was a success, and Sheikh Salman said the UAE can build on that as the format moves from 16 to 24 teams.
“The AFC is looking forward to a successful organisation and an exceptional edition following the great success we had in Australia last January,” Sheikh Salman said. “It is big challenge hosting such an event, but I’m confident that the higher organising committee in the UAE will live up to the high expectations and provide the highest standards in hosting this championship.”
The UAE receive automatic qualification for the tournament, while 45 national teams going through qualifying until March 2018 to fill out the other slots.
“We had a successful staging of the championship at that time (in 1996), but this time around it’s going to be a new landmark in the history of the UAE sport and a new line to be scripted in the country’s football,” said Football Association president Yousef Al Serkal, who took part in the signing ceremony with Sheikh Salman.
Mohammed bin Thaloob Al Derei, head of the organising committee, said AFC inspectors were impressed with the UAE’s facilities, which include a new 60,000-seater stadium to be built in Dubai.
“We are ready to host a championship that features 60 teams and not just 24 teams only thanks to the first-class and integrated infrastructure including main venues and training facilities,” he said.
“It’s a challenge. We don’t have an intensive population like Australia and China, but we will work hard in order to ensure good attendance for the championship.”
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Published: June 26, 2015 04:00 AM