Peace and tolerance the message as UAE gets set to host 2019 Asian Cup

Matt Jones 30/07/2018
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Tournament organisers of the 2019 Asian Cup spoke about peace and tolerance as they announced the release of tickets for the tournament which will be played early next year in the UAE.

The 17th version of the Asian Cup – first played in Hong Kong in 1956 – will see the Emirates host for the second time, and Alberto Zaccheroni’s men will dream of emulating their ancestors, who stormed all the way to the final on home soil in 1996.

There, the dream ended, as they lost on penalties to Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia. But the dream is just beginning for the current generation ahead of the tournament, which kicks of in Abu Dhabi on January 5, with the Whites opening the tournament against Bahrain.

Speaking on Thursday at the launch of tickets for the Asian Cup at Zayed Sports City Stadium, which will host the opening game as well as the final, tournament director Aref Al Awani said: “The UAE, through its high mission which represents peace, tolerance, happiness, and openness, welcomes all teams and all nationals of the Asian continent to attend and watch this big continental event, which brings 24 teams together for the first time.

“This great participation is a big focus for us as it reflects the potential of the UAE and its great capabilities in organising the biggest and most important global and continental sporting events.

“The announcement of the general ticket sale is a proof that the countdown has started, and preparations are on the right path.”

The Whites will feature in Group A, which also houses Thailand and India.

The Green Falcons, who featured at this summer’s World Cup, will face Lebanon, North Korea and Qatar in Group E.

And Asian Cup organisers say they do not envision any problems arising from the Qatari national team’s participation in the tournament.

The UAE, Saudi, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic relations with Qatar in June 2017 over its support for extremist groups.

“Sport is not affected by politics,” said Al Awani.

“We don’t see any problem with that. We are welcoming all countries. The Qatar national team can attend, we have this experience with them in the AFC Champions League. Whatever happens there, we can prove they’ve been here. Everyone saw that in the Champions League tournament.

“And everybody will see them, Inshallah, in Janaury. Qatari fans will be welcome. We are welcoming anyone to come and attend and participate.

“The only thing that will be different is that they will have to process through security and that is a normal thing for any country who doesn’t have a direct entry visa. It is normal. There are a lot of countries like that.”

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UAE superstar Omar Abdulrahman vows to clear his name after Gulf Cup final curfew scandal

Matt Jones 29/07/2018
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Omar Abdulrahman has vowed to clear his name after he and Ali Mabkhout (bottom) were banned after being found to have broken curfew at the Gulf Cup in January.

UAE magician Omar Abdulrahman has vowed to prove his innocence over the furore of his and fellow national team star Ali Mabkhout’s punishments in the wake of breaking curfew at the Gulf Cup at the start of the year.

Al Ain superstar ‘Amoory’ and lethal Al Jazira striker Mabkhout were found to have left the team hotel in Kuwait outside of permitted hours the night before the January 5 final against Oman.

The Whites subsequently lost 5-4 on penalties, with Abdulrahman missing a crucial penalty in the dying seconds of stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes before again fluffing his lines from 12 yards with the UAE’s fifth penalty, which he needed to score to send the shootout to sudden death.

The pair were issued four-game domestic bans following the tournament – a decision that resulted in a backlash against the UAE Football Association.

National team coach Alberto Zaccheroni added fuel to the fire when he later declined to select 2016 AFC Player of the Year Abdulrahman and 2015 Asian Cup top scorer Mabkhout for the King’s Cup in March.

But Abdulrahman insists the duo – along with Mabkhout’s Jazira team-mate Mohammed Fawzi, who escaped punishment as he was injured and not due to play in the final – only visited a barber shop.

Ali Mabkhout finished as top scorer for the UAE at the 2015 Asian Cup.

Ali Mabkhout finished as top scorer for the UAE at the 2015 Asian Cup.

The 26-year-old schemer categorically denied that they left the team hotel in Kuwait City and “went out late for fun”.

“All of us players in the national team, we give everything to this team and the jersey we wear, whether in the field or outside,” said Abdulrahman, speaking to Anas Bukhash as the first guest on his new YouTube talk show #ABtalks, earlier this month.

“There was talk about me, Ali Mabkhout and Mohammed Fawzi going out (to have fun) and the FA punished us. We did not go out to have fun.

“We only went to the barber shop for Ali Mabkhout and we came back. All of this can be checked on the hotel’s CCTV. The barber was outside the hotel.”

Abdulrahman and Mabkhout, 27 – the nation’s two shining superstars who were this week recalled by Zaccheroni for next month’s training camp in Austria – were found guilty of leaving the team’s hotel in Kuwait City without permission from 20:15-22:30.

But the brilliant Boss midfielder insisted they were back at the hotel before 22:30. “This is not the first national team camp we attend. This is usually never an issue,” he added.

“We went back at around 10:20-10:22 and we chilled, then slept. Next day we played the match and when we lost some people talked and claimed that all of us went out late for fun.

“Don’t think I stayed quiet. I raised a case against those individuals and I am suing them. With time and the progress of the case the people will know the actual truth and that we were treated unfairly.

“I don’t want to talk about this much more because I notice a stage where I will not forgive a person who is trying to destroy my reputation or any of the national team players that are innocent of accusations.

“You are free to express your opinion. You are free to speak about Omar. But in the end I will prove to everyone that I was right and that the person accusing me, stating that we were doing something wrong and not respecting the country, I will prove they were all false accusations.

“I was mentally tired because people were believing these accusations. If we’d won no-one would have said anything. When you lose they will hold you accountable for every little detail, even the way you dress.

“But when you win, no matter what you do, no-one will say anything. The fans have the right to speak up because we wanted to win the Gulf Cup. In the end it was a penalty and I could not score it.”

Abdulrahman also took umbrage at criticism that he had assigned himself as the fifth penalty taker in order to put himself in a position to shine as a potential UAE hero.

“People saying that Omar wants to steal the show, this was the thing I heard the most, that I’m selfish and only thought of myself,” added Abdulrahman.

“If I am really selfish and want to steal the show, I can do that anywhere, anytime. We did not play well in any match (at the Gulf Cup). None. We went there with no demands or expectations from anyone. We were asked only to follow the new coach’s instructions.

Al Ain dynamo Abdulrahman is the jewel of UAE football.

Al Ain dynamo Abdulrahman is the jewel of UAE football.

“When we reached the final they asked for the championship and that is their right. And as players we wished that too. It was not my day. We as players could have done more but it was not only us, it was everyone. The FA, coaches, players, fans.”

Abdulrahman is undoubtedly the shining light of UAE football and among the best players on the continent too. He has often been linked with moves away from the Garden City – having first caught the attention of the world with the UAE at the 2012 Olympics in London.

He was subsequently invited for a trial with Manchester City that August who offered him a four-year deal – which broke down over work permit issues.

But he so far has been content to stay with his boyhood club. And he confirmed he will never play for another UAE side.

“It’s not about taking me away from Saudi Arabia, but they saw talent in me,” said the Saudi Arabia-born Amoory, who signed for Al Ain in 2006 after the club offered him and his entire family citizenship.

“That’s how I reached Al Ain and I’ve been blessed since then. Al Ain was the only one. And there will never be any other club for me here in the UAE.”

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Tickets for 2019 Asian Cup, taking place in the UAE, go on sale Monday

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Ticket sales for one of the most eagerly-anticipated spectacles in world football – the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 – will go live on Monday at 12:00 noon on the-afc.com.

After a record-setting group stage performance by Asian teams at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the eyes of the football world now turn towards the UAE from January 5-February 1, 2019.

The expanded competition, which is set to welcome an unprecedented 24 teams – eight more than the previous 2015 edition – will take place across eight world-class stadiums in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai and Sharjah, and promises to engage more fans than ever before in the biggest sporting event ever hosted in the region.

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President Shaikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa said: “The AFC ‘s vision and mission outlined our ambitions to provide world-class platforms for our teams, players and passionate fans.

“The launch of ticket sales is an important milestone and the UAE is the perfect host nation to unite the Asian football family. I am confident that the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 will provide the ultimate stage to showcase Asia’s remarkable talent and engage and excite more fans than ever before.

“In the LOC (Local Organising Committee, we have a trusted partner who share our ambitions of bringing Asia together and to deliver the most competitive and accessible Asian Cup to date.”

The UAE will hope to emulate the side that reached the final the last time the country hosted the tournament in 1996.

The UAE will hope to emulate the side that reached the final the last time the country hosted the tournament in 1996.

Ticket prices for the competition have been set to allow as many people as possible—from the millions of Asians already residing in the UAE to the two billion living within a four-hour flight—to come and experience the thrill of top-class, live international football.

Speaking at the launch of tickets for the Asian Cup, vice chairman of the LOC, HE Mohammed Khalfan Al Romaithi, said: “The UAE is honoured to be hosting the most-expansive, most-inclusive AFC Asian Cup in history.

“More teams promise more goals, more action and more drama, and we are confident that our long pedigree of hosting world-class sporting events has prepared us to offer an unsurpassed fan experience for football fans and first-timers alike.

“Moreover, the LOC promises to deliver not just the biggest tournament in the region’s history, but the best. And this will begin with the Asian communities already living in the UAE that are prepared to rally and support their national teams at this exciting, once-in-a-lifetime event.

“There is no better place to embody the tournament motto of ‘Bringing Asia Together’ than right here in the UAE.”

As part of the exciting build-up to ticket sales, a special launch event saw HE Aref Al Awani, tournament director, and children from across the UAE enjoy an opportunity to play at the iconic Zayed Sports City Stadium, where the opener and final of the Asian Cup will be staged.

The event demonstrated the unprecedented scale of the tournament as children held each other’s arm representing the cause of this edition, against a backdrop of a giant ticket, symbolising the sheer scale of the tournament that is coming to the Emirates.

Speaking on the launch of tickets for the Asian Cup, Al Awani said: “The UAE through high mission which represents peace, tolerance, happiness, and openness, welcomes all teams and all nationals of the Asian continent to attend and watch this big continental event, which brings 24 teams together for the first time.

“This great participation is a big focus for us as it reflects the potential of the UAE and its great capabilities in organising the biggest and most important global and continental sporting events.

“The announcement of the general ticket sale is a proof that the countdown has started, and the preparations are going on the right path.

“The organising committee continues its efforts and preparations in order to launch the event in the best possible way and the meeting of children from different cultures during the launch of ticket sales reflects the spirit of unity in the tournament.”

Ticket Categories:

                                     CAT3       CAT2        CAT1

GROUP STAGE           Dh25        Dh50        Dh75

ROUND 16                   Dh25        Dh50        Dh75

QUARTER-FINALS     Dh50        Dh75        Dh150

SEMI-FINALS              Dh50        Dh75        Dh150

FINAL                          Dh75        Dh150      Dh300

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