Organisers of the 2019 Asian Cup have launched a new nationwide campaign aimed at inspiring women across the UAE to fulfill their potential in the community.
Whether through sport or local initiatives, women in the Emirates are making positive change and are increasingly regarded as role models for the future.
The campaign, which continues the theme of the AFC’s highly-successful ‘It’s My Game’ movement is the first of its kind in the west zone and will feature stories of real women involved in sport and the community, from players to doctors, marketers to managers, referees, photographers, coaches and more.
AFC general secretary Dato’ Windsor John said: “Women’s football represents an essential pillar for the AFC and is an important part of the future success of Asian football.
“As we have witnessed through the ‘It’s My Game campaign,’ we will continue to invest in their development to fulfil our vision and mission in expanding the reach of the game and to empower communities of all nationalities, ages, and backgrounds.
“There is no better platform to showcase and celebrate the inspiring role of women than through Asia’s most prestigious and biggest-ever football tournament.”
The campaign also aims to encourage conversations with the next generation on the prospects of pursuing a career in sport as well as leveraging the power of sport to empower the community.
Launched in conjunction with Emirati Women’s Day, the initiative will collaborate with inspirational women who represent a broad spectrum of nationalities and work in a variety of sporting and community positions.
To commemorate the moment, they posed for striking and powerful images showcasing the diversity of women who are part of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 campaign.
Speaking on the launch of the campaign, tournament director Aref Al Awani said: “Our ambition is to show the next generation of women how to play a role in shaping the community and support sport in the UAE.
“That is why we are launching a campaign that will see us embark on a wide listening and learning exercise, where we introduce women to the massive opportunities of careers in sport or helping the community.
“What better way to launch this campaign than by capturing the women right now in the UAE working in sports and community roles. Young women can aspire to be involved through powerful imagery that shows them as they are – real, inspirational and lifting the UAE to new heights.”
Dr Reema Al Hosani, chief medical officer of the Asian Cup and one of the female figures involved in the launch shoot, was full of excitement for what lies ahead.
“This campaign is all about uncovering and celebrating the real stories of women excelling in the UAE,” she said.
“Over the next three months we have a brilliant opportunity to drive forward the agenda and showcase how women are making change. What a fantastic legacy that would be for the 2019 Asian Cup.”
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.”
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.
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.
“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.”