Abu Dhabi: The UAE unveiled its bid to host the 2019 AFC Asian Cup on Monday, with officials hoping past big-event experience can count in their favour.
Saudi Arabia, Iran and Thailand are the other nations who are bidding to hold the continental football showpiece, which is run by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) every four years.
The winning team becomes the champions of Asia and automatically qualifies for the Fifa Confederations Cup.
An eight-member AFC delegation has been in the capital on a three-day visit to inspect five venues in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.
“We have the experience of hosting events of such calibre before. We have hosted five Fifa tournaments starting from the Asian Cup in 1996, two Fifa Club World Cups, the Under-20 World Cup and the Under-17 World Cup last year. We are confident of putting up a good show if we win the bid,” said Yousuf Khoury, a member of the UAE Football Association board.
Talal Al Hashemi, a member of the bid committee of the UAE Football Association, added: “By hosting such an event in the UAE, we want to enhance our experience. There is tremendous support from their Highnesses, the Shaikhs and the government, and we have roped in an international firm to prepare and submit the bid book.”
Khoury added: “We are a secure and safe destination compared to what is happening across the world. We are also doing well economically. The presence of a large expat population here will also draw in a huge crowd. We believe we have a strong and solid case and we know that we can deliver.”
Once all the countries have submitted the bid book, the AFC executive committee will study them in detail and, if necessary, make another inspection.
The host country will be announced in the beginning of this November.
Since the 2019 Asian Cup is expected to comprise 24 teams as opposed to the present 16, the AFC is looking for seven stadia from host nations – six and one stand-by venue.
Among the stadia included in the UAE bid are Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium and Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain’s brand-new Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, the Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium and Dubai’s Cricket Stadium.
The UAE FA also has plans to build a new stadium by 2018, which would be located on Al Khail Road.
“We are satisfied with the venues after inspection, but there are three other countries also in the bidding. We will be visiting them soon and giving a report similar to what we will be submitting after going from here,” said Dr. Tran Quoc Tuan, Head of the AFC delegation.
The AFC will visit Thailand next early next month before travelling to Saudi Arabia and Iran towards the end of April.