UAE Football Association president Yousif Al Serkal has led the celebrations after the nation was named as hosts for the 2019 Asian Cup yesterday.
The UAE headed off competition from sole challengers Iran to win an unanimous decison from the Asian Football Confederation Executive Committee in Manama, Bahrain.
The selection for the competition – which is expected to see a rise from 16 to 24 teams – was met with huge cheer once it had been officially announced on the continental governing body’s official Twitter account at 17:00.
— The-AFC.com (@theafcdotcom) March 9, 2015
At the end of the delayed two-hour meeting in the Bahraini capital, Al Serkal and AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa signed the hosting certificate to see Asia’s most high-profile footballing event return to the Emirates in January 2019.
The Whites made the final when they played hosts in 1996, losing a penalty shootout to Saudi Arabia.
“The winning of the process to become hosts of the Asian Cup puts us in front of a big challenge and I hope the tournament will reflect the good reputation enjoyed by the UAE through its ability to host major global events,” Al Serkal said.
“There is great confidence in the elements of safety and security enjoyed by the UAE under its leadership. The UAE’s proven ability to host major international events was the most prominent factor in securing an unanimous vote of AFC members.”
The UAE had come into the final round as strong favourites in a field that had once contained 11 competing member associations.
A range of criteria was used to separate the bids, including stadiums, transport, infrastructure, hotels, visas and various other sporting, logistical and administrative issues.
The UAE bid for the Asian Cup features six stadiums in three cities. Games will be held at Zayed Sports City and Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Hazza bin Zayed Stadium and Khalifa International Stadium in Al Ain and Dubai International Cricket Stadium plus an under-construction venue in Dubai Sports City.
A series of FIFA competitions have recently been successfully held in the Emirates. This includes the 2009 and 2010 FIFA Club World Cups, the 24-nation 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship and 2013 FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
AFC president Shaikh Salman hailed the strength of the UAE’s proposal, believing the next Asian Cup could outshine January’s event in Australia during which the Whites secured third spot.
He said: “The AFC Executive Committee was convinced by the merits of the UAE bid. I firmly believe that the UAE Football Association will host a tournament that could match and potentially even surpass the stunning AFC Asian Cup 2015 in Australia.”
Asia’s 46 national teams will take part in a three-round qualification process, with the first two doubling up as as qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The UAE are guaranteed entry to the former as hosts and enter during the second round which begins in June.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has confirmed that the UAE will host the 2019 Asian Cup after unanimously beating off competition from Iran to stage the continent’s premier football tournament.
The announcement was made on the AFC’s official Twitter account following its executive committee meeting in Manama, Bahrain, on Monday morning.
It is expected that the event in four years’ time will see the tournament increased from 16 nations to 24.
Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Oman and Kuwait had all bid for the event, with China and Bahrain withdrawing after showing initial interest.
“The UAE won the right unanimously,” AFC chief Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said.
We are pleased to announce that the United Arab Emirates will host the AFC #AC2019
— The-AFC.com (@theafcdotcom) March 9, 2015
“I would like to congratulate the UAE FA on their successful bid to host the AFC Asian Cup 2019.
“The AFC Executive Committee was convinced by the merits of the UAE bid. I firmly believe that the UAE FA will host a tournament that could match and potentially even surpass the stunning AFC Asian Cup 2015 in Australia that we have all just witnessed.”
AFC officials visited the UAE last month for final inspections of the proposed stadia, with six AGL grounds put forward as venues across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.
It will be the first time since 1996 that the Emirates have hosted the Asian Cup and the UAE will be hoping for a repeat of their run to the final that year, although they fell just short against Saudi Arabia in the showpiece.
That event was held across just three stadiums in the UAE, with sporting infrastructure in its early stages of development at the time.
This year’s edition saw Mahdi Ali’s UAE team finish third after being beaten in the semi-final by eventual winners, and hosts, Australia.
FIFA Under-20 and Under-17 World Cups in 2003 and 2013 have previously been held in the UAE, as has the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009 and 2010. The country’s sports council is also bidding for the FIFA Club World Cups in 2017 and 2018.
The latter would be played one month before the 2019 Asian Cup.
Al Ahli star Habib Fardan believes a strong showing in the AFC Champions League can help the club revive their faltering season.
Struggling down in seventh place in the AGL, the reigning UAE champions face their Saudi Arabian namesakes on Wednesday – Al Ahli of Jeddah.
— Al Ahli FC (@AlAhli_UAE) February 23, 2015
And Fardan, who on Monday helped adidas launch the ‘There will be Haters’ advertising campaign in Dubai, said: “We were hoping to be better than our results but step by step we are improving. Now we are concentrating on the Asian Champions League.
“I hope we change the image and show everybody who Al Ahli are and perform much better than the beginning of the season.
“It’s going to be a hard game of course because Al Ahli are in a good position. They are performing very well so it’s going to be a hard game for both teams. I think it will be a great game.”
Fardan was also full of praise for his UAE international team-mate Omar Abdulrahman who this week inked a new three-year contract with club Al Ain.
“I want to congratulate Omar for signing a new contract,” he said. “I think he is going to improve and he will be able to play in a good team in Europe in the future. In my opinion, I think he can play in any league in Europe.”