The countdown continues for the start of Asia’s most important international football competition on January 12, 2024.
The 2023 Asian Cup was planned to be held in China but was postponed to Qatar due to the coronavirus outbreak. Since Qatar was unable to host the games due to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the tournament was postponed to 2024 despite its name.
The Gulf country is all set to host another major international competition after the historic FIFA 2022 World Cup. One million football fans turned out just over a year ago and history was made.
The Asian Cup has also played an important role in the country’s recent football history. Qatar hosted the competition in 1988 and 2011. And again in 2019, they lifted the coveted trophy and were crowned winners of the tournament. The Maroons open their match against Lebanon at the iconic Lusail Stadium. The arena will forever be remembered for the iconic World Cup final that culminated in Lionel Messi lifting the trophy.
The world-class Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium will host seven matches throughout the tournament. Venue Manager Ahmad Al Qatami told FOOTBALL NOW that the competition is an opportunity for fans to remember the success of the FIFA World Cup:
“We see the AFC as another opportunity to see the crowds of people that we really miss. We all miss the World Cup. We had a great time. So, as a follow-up to the World Cup, we have to have total AFC matches. There is fan attendance again in the big stadiums. “Fans will again enjoy all the facilities in Qatar. AFC matches will be played during the winter months and a pleasant atmosphere will be felt in the stadiums.”
The volunteer program brings together many people from different backgrounds and nationalities. They all come together with one focus in mind: contributing to their community.
Jassim al Jassim, CEO of the Asian Cup, volunteered at the 2011 games and has first-hand experience of how important the support team is to hosting a successful competition.
“They are the backbone of the operations, not only do they do their best, but the positive effects you see around the volunteers are incredible. When you walk into the volunteer center or go to a place where there are volunteers, they always enjoy what they do. They do, which creates a positive impact within the organization.” But they form the backbone of any tournament, they’re very, very important to any tournament, both operationally and socially.
There will be many 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 highly respected, making them one of the favorites to win. However, Sport360’s English Middle East Correspondent Matt Monaghan explained that the tournament could pave the way for a breakaway team.
“One thing to watch in the Asian Cup could be the UAE. With their back-to-back semi-finals in the Asian Cups. They now have Paolo Bento, who is considered South Korea’s most successful manager ever. So, the UAE are now the most experienced player in Asia.” “He has a new background with one of the international managers. I’ll be interested to see how they go about it.” Matt concluded.
The Asian Cup is another sign that the Middle East is fast becoming one of football’s most popular hubs. In addition to hosting many major international tournaments, the Saudi Pro League has also attracted some of the world’s biggest stars.
“I think the Middle East has definitely closed the gap with Europe. This shows 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 football world continues to keep an eye on the Middle East. With less than 50 days until the whistle blows, signaling the start of the month-long 2023 Asian Cup, interest in the region will increase even more.