First chance to buy Asian Cup tickets as early bird corporate reservations are now open

David Cooper 28/06/2018
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Ready for the challenge: Ahmed Khalil and Omar Abdulrahman (c) will be playing for UAE

With six months to go until the UAE host the AFC Asian Cup, early bird group ticket packages for corporates are now available for purchase.

From January 5 to February 1, a total of 24 nations including the UAE will be batting for glory in the largest Asian Cup ever. A total of 51 matches will be played in eight stadiums across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

In support of the Local Organising Committee’s (LOC) aim of  ‘Bringing Asia Together’, group ticket packages allow businesses the chance to bring their employees to celebrate Asia as one. This is the first ticket release from the LOC and offers groups the chance to reserve tickets before they go on general sale later this summer.

Australia are bidding to retain their title after winning the title in 2015 while Alberto Zaccheroni, who managed Japan’s 2011 triumph, will be hoping to replicate his success for hosts UAE.

UAE’s Omar Abdulrahman will be just one of the stars on show and Aref Al Awani, tournament director of the LOC, believes it will be a great opportunity for businesses to watch the elite up close.

“We’ve had a phenomenal amount of interest from the business community in the UAE looking to secure seats to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, which is exciting to see,” he said. “These packages will allow local companies the opportunity to bring their employees together for a truly unforgettable experience and in turn support us unite a continent in the Emirates.

“We have a very diverse workforce in the UAE, which includes most of the Asian nations heading to compete here in January 2019. We also have many football fans from these countries and others from Western nations living in the UAE, too. We see a real chance here for employees to be brought together in a celebration of football and Asia.”

Dato Windsor John, General Secretary of the Asian Football Confederation, added: “Asian Cup is the pinnacle of national team football in Asia and the tournament in UAE will be the biggest and best ever staged with the potential for thousands of fans to follow their teams. The UAE is home to a diverse population and the group sales offer them all a chance to take part in this celebration of football.”

What: Asian Cup Corporate tickets

Where: Various locations

When: January 5 to February 1

Contact: For more information on how to purchase, email [email protected]

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Omar Abdulrahman is put in shade and other things learned as Al Ain exit ACL

Matt Jones 15/05/2018
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There will be no UAE representative in the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League for the first time in five years after Al Ain limped out of the tournament thanks to an aggregate 8-3 thrashing by Al Duhail.

Up against it from a 4-2 defeat at home in the first-leg, the Boss were marched out by a ruthless display of precision from the hosts, who will now have designs on the overall title.

A ghastly game from the Garden City side

They may be the cream of the crop back home, but Al Ain’s milky performance against Duhail over two legs proved that there remains some way to go for them to rise to the top on the continent.

The Boss have been to the semi-finals of the Champions League in two of the last four seasons and reached the quarter-finals a year ago.

And even though entry to the last eight this year beckoned, they never looked remotely close to beating Qatar’s champions and launching another assault on an elusive second continental title.

While heartbroken compatriots Al Jazira were left to rue contentious refereeing and bad luck that saw them heroically exit on away goals at Iran’s Persepolis on Monday night following a 4-4 aggregate draw, there was no such saving grace for Zoran Mamic’s men to fall back on. They were soundly beaten.

The 2017/18 season ends on an anti-climactic note for the Arabian Gulf League champions – who reclaimed their throne and lifted a record-extending 13th domestic title. They added a seventh President’s Cup title and had been eyeing an unprecedented treble. But such lofty dreams were dashed in epic fashion in Doha.

In truth, a demoralising 4-1 defeat on the night and an 8-3 trouncing overall wasn’t even remotely harsh on the visiting side – with the writing on the wall as early as the 12th minute when Mohamed Ahmed tried to deal with a dangerous cross but could only prod past prone goalkeeper Khalid Essa.

Plenty for the domestic double winners to contemplate over the summer months ahead of next season.

Al Ain won a double domestically, but further glory will not follow in Asia.

Al Ain won a double domestically, but further glory will not follow in Asia.

Contrast in fortunes and form of both team’s playmakers

Omar Abdulrahman is the golden boy of UAE football, and was Asia’s crown jewel in 2016, too. But his sizeable fall from grace was evidenced here by how he could only occupy the shadow of Duhail’s dazzling Nam Tae-hee.

Just as Al Ain were second best to their impressive hosts in the second leg and overall in this tie, Abdulrahman’s influence paled in comparison to his opposite No10 who tortured the Boss with probing passes and evasive maneuvering.

It’s amazing to consider that Nam won’t be going to the World Cup with South Korea.

The two shared the same pitch but might as well have been playing in separate stadiums, such was the gulf in class between their performances.

Amoory grazed the outside of the post in his one flash of brilliance, something that has stayed hidden for much of this season.

He somehow collected a fourth Emirati Player of the Year accolade at the Arabian Gulf League Awards last week, despite falling way short of the exceedingly excellent standards he has set in both UAE and Asian football over the last decade.

A season marred by poor form and injury yielded the least domestic league assists (four) since 2014/15 (two) and the joint second fewest of his career since bursting onto the scene eight years ago.

He only featured in 13 games, his third lowest total. But his five goals were his fourth-best tally.

Nam was the QNB Stars League’s player of the season a year ago, putting former Barcelona string-puller Xavi in the shade. On Tuesday night it was Abdulrahman who he cast a dark cloud over.

Lead Duhail to the final and he should usurp him as Asia’s finest creator, too.

Omar Abdulrahman's influence on Al Ain this season has been diminished.

Omar Abdulrahman’s influence on Al Ain this season has been diminished.

Are we finally set for a western winner?

There hasn’t been a West Asia winner of the Champions League since Al Saad hoisted the trophy high seven years ago.

Since that 4-2 penalty shootout triumph over South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in 2011, teams from the east have outscored the west 8-3 in finals.

But the way Duhail ruthlessly cast aside the champions of the UAE on Tuesday night opens up the distinct possibility that the barren run could be ended this year.

In truth, western region teams have been more than a match for their counterparts from the east in recent years, on paper at least.

Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal were immeasurably more talented than rank outsiders Western Sydney Wanderers in 2014, but were beaten by the Australian’s grit and determination.

A lack of big game experience denied a supreme Al Ahli side victory in 2015, Cosmin Olaroiu’s men shaking off a dismal campaign domestically to reach the final, but they were unable to overcome an experienced group who were in their second final in two years.

In 2016, Al Ain simply didn’t seem to possess the mental fortitude to overcome a Leonardo-inspired Jeonbuk – with fellow Brazilian forward Douglas left broken by a fluffed penalty in the second leg of the final that proved to be the catalyst to his side’s downfall.

The tougher rounds are ahead. And Duhail will surely face a sterner test in the quarter-finals than the one provided by the Boss.

But on this evidence it will take something special to stop the newly-amalgamated side from becoming the second Qatari champions of Asia.

South Korea schemer Nam Tae-hee can lead Al Duhail to overall Asian glory.

South Korea schemer Nam Tae-hee can lead Al Duhail to overall Asian glory.

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Iconic Asian footballers host skills clinic with kids to promote 2019 Asian Cup

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Some of the greatest names in Asian football have given young footballers living in the UAE a thrill by hosting a special skills clinic in Dubai to help celebrate the final draw of the AFC 2019 Asian Cup.

Children from all communities were united by football fever. But it was those belonging to the Indian, Chinese and Thai communities who enjoyed a special surprise as they came face to face with their own national heroes who dropped in for the unique event hosted by the tournament’s Local Organising Committee.

The occasion perfectly embodied the spirit of the competition and brought to life the tournament theme of ‘Bringing Asia Together’.

The event saw current captain of India, Sunil Chhetri, China’s former national great Sun Jihai and Thai hero Pipat Thonkanya join forces to showcase their talents to the young fans.

The children got to go beyond watching or securing autographs as they took part in an 2019 Asian Cup Crossbar challenge and skills demo before posing for photographs beneath the iconic Burj Khalifa.

His Excellency Aref Hamed Al Awani, tournament director, said: “Already young dreams are coming true and the next generation inspired. That’s our mission and we hope the impact goes beyond football.  We want to excite and embrace each community living in the UAE and unite them through this beautiful game.

Former China and Man City midfielder Sun Jihai was one of the former stars to take part.

Former China and Man City midfielder Sun Jihai was one of the former stars to take part.

“We are blessed to have such a diverse nation but this tournament has the power to connect us all. You just have to look at the smiles on faces and feel the energy created by bringing people together through football to know this tournament is going to be very special.

“For these children their countdown to January 5 has already started and we hope that excitement will spread across the country.”

Chhetri, added: “This tournament is massive. Yes, it’s good for everyone in Asia to have the best 24 countries playing each other, but especially for India. The game is really growing and just qualifying for big tournaments like this means everything.

“It could also feel like a ‘home’ tournament if the Indian community in the UAE come out in numbers and support us. But any fan who loves the game can support India! We promise to put on a show.”

India skipper Sunil Chhetri.

India skipper Sunil Chhetri.

An expanded tournament format for 2019 will see the best 24 national teams from Asia participate at the Asian Cup, making it the largest edition staged and biggest sporting event hosted in the UAE.

A total of 51 matches will be played between January 5 and February 1, 2019, in eight stadiums located in three cities across the Emirates. The final draw took place on Friday with each group offering some tremendous ties.

China and former Manchester City midfielder Jihai added: “Football really is the number one sport in the world. It connects people and countries like no other. Just look at how it’s brought these children together and helped create new friendships.

“Recently China has invested a lot into football and we are improving. Perhaps in the future we can win a championship like the Asian Cup, but we need our fans to support us.

Kids pictured with Sunil Chhetri, Sun Jihai and Pipat Thonkanya in the backdrop of the Burj Khalifa.

Kids pictured with Sunil Chhetri, Sun Jihai and Pipat Thonkanya amid the backdrop of the Burj Khalifa.

“Anyone who loves football in China should come to the UAE. The fans are part of our squad. We need their fighting spirit and support to help our performances.”

Thonkanya added: “For the first time young children in Thailand want to grow up and become professional footballers. That is very exciting. So as a team we need to play on the biggest stage in Asian football, to inspire more to follow in our footsteps.”

For the latest 2019 Asian Cup news and information go to www.the-afc.com

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