2023 Asian Cup: 50 days to go

2023 Asian Cup: 50 days to go

The countdown is on until Asia’s most prominent international football competition starts on January 12th 2024.

The 2023 Asian Cup was due to be held in China but was moved to Qatar because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Qatar could not host the games then due to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, so despite the name, the tournament was pushed over to 2024.

The Gulf nation is ready to host another major international competition following the historic FIFA World Cup 2022. One million football fans arrived just over a year ago, and history was made.

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The Asian Cup has also played a significant part in the country’s recent footballing history. Qatar hosted the competition in 1988 and 2011. And again in 2019, when they lifted the coveted trophy and crowned tournament winners. The Maroons open the games in a match against Lebanon at the iconic Lusail Stadium. The arena will be remembered forever for an iconic World Cup final culminating with Lionel Messi lifting the trophy.

Messi [centre] lifted the trophy in Lusail last DecemberODD ANDERSEN/AFP or licensors

The world-class Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium will host seven matches during the tournament. Ahmad Al Qatami is the Venue Manager, who told FOOTBALL NOW that the competition is a chance for fans to reminisce on the success of the FIFA World Cup:

«We are looking at the AFC as another opportunity to see the crowds of people we really missed. We all miss the World Cup. We had an amazing time. So, as a continuation of the World Cup, we must have AFC matches with total fan attendance again in big stadiums. The supporters will again enjoy all the facilities in Qatar. The AFC matches will be during wintertime so that a pleasant atmosphere will be felt inside the stadiums.»

The volunteer programme brings many people together, all from different backgrounds and nationalities. They all come together with one focus in mind: giving back to their community.

Jassim al Jassim, The Asian Cup’s CEO, volunteered at the 2011 games and has first-hand experience with just how integral the support crew are to hosting a successful competition.

«They are the spine of the operations, not only to deliver what they do best, but the positive impacts you see around volunteers is incredible. Whenever you walk into the volunteer centre or go to a place where there are volunteers, they always enjoy what they’re doing, which gives a positive vibe within the organisation. But they’re the spine, for sure, for any tournament. They’re very, very important to any tournament from an operational perspective and also from a social perspective.

Volunteers at Qatar 2022 were integral to the event’s successODD ANDERSEN/AFP or licensors

There will be a lot of teams worthy of the title, including record four-time winners Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Australia, and current champions Qatar. Their manager, Carlos Queiroz, is widely respected, making them one of the favourites to win. But Sport360’s English Middle East Correspondent, Matt Monaghan, explained that the tournament could pave the way for a breakaway team.

«One thing to watch at the Asian Cup could be the UAE. With the successive semi-final finishes they have had in the Asian Cups. Now they have Paolo Bento, one man widely considered South Korea’s most successful-ever manager. So, the UAE have a recent pedigree, along with one of the most experienced international managers currently in Asia. I will be interested to see how they go on this». Matt concluded.

The Asian Cup is yet another sign that the Middle East is rapidly becoming one of football’s most popular hubs. Alongside hosting several major international tournaments, the Saudi Pro League has attracted some of the world’s biggest stars.

«I think they (the Middle East) are absolutely closing the gap with Europe. Which would only say that the Asian teams are working in the right direction». says Jassim Al-Jassim confidently.

Whether it’s world-class players in Saudi Arabia or major competitions in Qatar, the eyes of the footballing world continue to watch the Middle East. With less than 50 days to go until the whistle finally blows to signal the start of the month-long 2023 Asian Cup, the attention on the region will only continue.


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