Abu Dhabi: Dato Windsor John, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general secretary, is pleased with UAE’s preparations for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
“I’m confident that the UAE can put up a good show. We are happy with what we have seen so far and everything is moving as per the guidelines,” said John, speaking on the sidelines of the 100-day countdown ceremony near the IPIC Arena at Zayed Sports City in the capital.
John went on to reveal that stadiums are undergoing upgrades and everything will be in place before the start of the tournament.
“We are constantly monitoring the progress of the stadiums and our team keeps coming down to see the upgrades. So far, everything is perfect and we will be following up closely till the end,” said John.
Also present to mark the 100-day countdown was two-time AFC Asian Cup winner and three-time AFC Player of the Year, Majid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and delegates from each of the 24 competing nations.
“With 24 teams, fans around the world will have a chance to see not only the perennial powers, but the rising nations and young stars who will raise the level of Asian football to the next level,” said Abdullah.
For the first time, a record 24 teams will compete for the ultimate prize and the expanded format means teams from all five AFC zones are represented, which has also paved the way for Kyrgyz Republic, the Philippines and Yemen to mark their historic debut on Asia’s biggest football stage.
Another first since the inaugural edition in 1956, a new trophy was unveiled.
Further enhancing the value of the tournament, a new prize fund totalling $14.8 million (Dh54.35 million) has also been introduced, which will reward all 24 participating nations for their success.
The remarkable rise of the AFC Asian Cup has also attracted some of the world’s biggest commercial names and the 17th edition will unveil its new Molten match ball, after the Japanese sports manufacturing giants became the latest partners to recognise the ever-growing appeal of AFC competitions.