The UAE Football Association outlined their bid to host the 2019 Asian Cup last night, which would include a brand new 60,000-seat stadium in Dubai.
The Dubai Sports Council (DSC) funded facility is expected to be ready by 2018 and would be located close to Dubai Sports City, where games would also be played at the Cricket Stadium.
A smaller 25,000-seat stadium currently under construction in Sports City will also be included as a stand-by venue.
With the 2019 tournament set to be expanded to 24 teams, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) require bidding nations to have six suitable stadia and an eight-man delegation, headed by Dr Tran Quoc Tuan, were also shown potential venues in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.
The capital plans to hold games at Zayed Sports City and the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, while the Garden City would stage matches at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium and Khalifa International Stadium.
The UAE are competing against bids from Iran, Saudi Arabia and Thailand for the right to host the Asian Cup for the second time, and first since 1996, but UAEFA board member Yousef Khouri believes their experience at hosting top class sporting events gives them an advantage.
“The last time we hosted this event was in 1996 and after that we longed to host it again,” he said. “The UAE is known for hosting big events in all areas, especially football.”
The UAE most recently hosted the FIFA Under-17 World Cup last winter, and Al Khouri added: “I think by the end of the year we could host the 2015 Asian Cup, but I hope we will be lucky and host the 2019 Asian Cup.”
The delegation returns to Malaysia today before they visit Thailand, Saudi Arabia and Iran in April.
They will then file their reports on each country in May, when the official bids have to be submitted.
There is scope for a second inspection with the decision on who will host the 2019 Cup expected at November’s AFC Executive Committee meeting.
Brazilian football icon – and Emirates Global Ambassador – Pele will return to the UAE this month to host a special screening of the proudest moments from his glittering career.
Pele, who was unveiled as an Emirates Ambassador in January at a press conference in Dubai, will be back in the emirate on March 16.
The three-time World Cup winner will visit the Emirates Headquarters along with the Emirates-sponsored New York Cosmos football team, of which Pele is Honorary President following his two seasons at the American club.
The screening will see Pele share and talk through 10 of his proudest moments from his career with the Brazil national team, Santos, and the Cosmos in front of an invited audience.
“This will be the first event of its kind in Dubai with such a global footballing icon. Emirates is about connecting people and passions and this is a unique example, said Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations, Centre.
“To have Pele personally talking through these historic video clips will provide a beautiful moment in the beautiful game for those present, and for the millions of passengers who will be able to see the programme on our award-winning ice entertainment system.”
Pele first visited the UAE in 1973 with Santos for a match against Al Nasr. Upon his return to Dubai in January, the 73-year-old was surprised by a few former players who had turned out for Nasr and was gifted a photograph from the match.
Meanwhile, the New York Cosmos, with whom Pele won the North American Soccer League (NASL) Soccer Bowl and NASL Soccer Atlantic Conference Championship in 1977, are currently training in Dubai.
The Cosmos have played one friendly match – a 1-0 defeat to Al Shabab – and will take on Al Wasl at the Zabeel Stadium on Tuesday.
Pele's arrival in Dubai will coincide with the launch of a competition from Emirates that will see the winner receive the 'Ultimate Pele Experience'. Those interested in taking part are being advised to keep updated with the official Emirates Facebook page.
A moment of magic from Ismail Al Hammadi was not enough to maintain the UAE’s perfect Asian Cup qualifying record as a late Igor Sergeev header earned a 1-1 draw in Tashkent.
Mahdi Ali had urged his side to finish their Group E campaign with a win but it was not until substitute Al Hammadi produced a goal of the highest order with 23 minutes left.
The UAE had struggled to impose themselves prior to the Al Ahli winger’s intervention but afterwards they were a team reborn and could have stretched their led had Ahmed Khalil not struck the upright.
But with less than 10 minutes remaining they were pegged back as Sergeev earned his side a well deserved draw.
The hosts were reduced to 10 men just before the end as defender Islom Tuhtahujaev received two bookings in quick succession.
The result means the UAE finish their Group E campaign unbeaten, and with five wins from six will be one of the teams to miss at the draw for the finals in Sydney on March 26.
Mahdi will head to Australia buoyed by the reaction of Al Hammadi, one of his senior players, and a promising cameo from Mohamed Abdulrahman but his experiment with Ahmed Khamis failed as the Sharjah man was booked just 45 minutes into his international debut.
Uzbek coach Mirjalol Qosimov had bemoaned the state of the Bunyodkor Stadium pitch but it was his side that settled on the bobbly surface quickest.
Sanjar Tursunov had an early chance to open the scoring before his cut-back was cut-out by Ismail Ahmed.
Sergeev then fizzed a shot from the edge of the box just past keeper Ali Khaseif’s left-hand post as the Uzbek pressure showed no sign of relenting.
Server Djeparov should have done better in the 30th minute as he headed Odil Ahmedov’s cross over from eight yards, having given his marker the slip.
The Uzbekistan captain then sent over a wicked delivery from a free-kick on the right that Sergeev could only head straight at Khaseif.
If the game turned with the introduction of Al Hammadi at the break then it wasn’t immediately obvious as the hosts continued to press in the opening stages of the half.
Indeed Ahmed survived a second Uzbek penalty appeal as the ball ricocheted behind for a corner off his shoulder. But Al Hammadi’s arrival did ensure the UAE posed their opponents a threat on the break, and the winger gave the Uzbek defence a warning as he almost set Ali Mabkhout free just after the hour.
The visitors were looking increasingly dangerous and when the goal eventually came it was well worth the wait.
Al Hammadi was in the right place at the right time to collect Mabkhout’s deflected shot on the edge of the area but everything that followed owed itself to the Al Ahli man’s skill.
The winger turned in one movement to expertly roll Vitaliy Denisov before keeping his cool to curl the ball past the Uzbek keeper.
It may have been unexpected but the goal gave the UAE a lift and within minutes Ahmed Khalil had been denied only by a desperate block from Tuhtahujaev.
With just 10 minutes to go and with Uzbekistan’s attacks becoming more and more frequent, the Al Ahli striker had the chance to double his side’s lead only to see his shot come back off the post.
Mabkhout saw his follow-up excellently saved before he was rightly pulled up by the referee for diving.
Khalil would then have a 20-yard free-kick tipped onto the bar, and the UAE would be made to pay for their profligacy as Sergeev met Nurmatov’s cross with an excellent header to draw the hosts level.
Uzbekistan were reduced to 10 men before the end as Tuhtahujaev was shown a second yellow card, for a foul on substitute Salem Saleh.