Yousuf Al Serkal banks on UAE’s track record to win Asian Cup hosting rights

UAE FA believes infrastructure and experience of hosting global events in past will help Emirates pip rivals such as Saudi Arabia. Ahmed Rizvi reports.

DUBAI // Yousuf Al Serkal, the president of the UAE Football Association, is confident the country’s strong tradition of hosting major football events gives them an edge in the four-nation race to host the 2019 Asian Cup.

A delegation comprising members of the UAEFA and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council are leaving for Kuala Lumpur today to officially present their bid for the 2019 continental championship.

They are expected to meet the chief of the Asian Football Confederation’s competitions committee and deputy secretary general of the AFC on Thursday to present their file, which includes approvals from the concerned ministries along with details of the match venues, practice facilities and hotels for the visiting delegations.

The last date for presenting bids is on Friday and Saudi Arabia, Iran and Thailand are the other nations vying to host the 2019 Asian Cup. Al Serkal is confident the UAE can be successful given their history.

The country hosted the Asian Cup in 1996 and, since then, the UAE have played host to four Fifa events – the Youth World Cup in 2003, the 2009 and 2010 Club World Cup, and the 2013 Under 17 World Cup.

“They [Fifa and the AFC] have seen how efficient we are in hosting such events and the UAE is now hoping to get the 2019 Asian Cup,” Al Serkal said. “Our chances are high in this area.

“I believe we have put together a really good file, meeting all the requirements. In the end, it is going to be a fair competition between all the bidding member associations, but we are hoping we will be lucky in the end because we have good infrastructure, experience and ability to host such events.”

An eight-member AFC delegation visited the UAE in March to inspect the proposed venues – the Mohammad bin Zayed Stadium and Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi, the Hazza bin Zayed and Khalifa bin Zayed stadiums in Al Ain, the cricket stadium in Dubai Sports City and a new 60,000-capacity venue that should be ready by 2018.

Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the president of the AFC, had given tacit endorsement to UAE’s bid. “The UAE have successfully hosted many international competitions and major events in the past, and that is what is helping their bid,” he said.

Meanwhile, reacting to the AFC’s request to member associations to appoint an integrity officer, Al Serkal said he does not believe the UAE needs such an official, but will consider appointing one to meet the AFC’s requirement.

The AFC have given their member associations a June 30 deadline to appoint an integrity officer as they try to battle the scourge of corruption and match-fixing. “In the UAE, I do not believe we need such an officer, but if it is a must, according to the AFC, we will cooperate and appoint an integrity officer, and make sure he has a clear mandate,” Al Serkal said.

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