The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has awarded the hosting rights for the 2019 edition of its Asian Cup showpiece national team tournament to the United Arab Emirates.
The UAE saw off competition from the IR Iran Football Federation (FFIRI) to land the hosting rights to the quadrennial tournament. The UAE and Iran were the only two nations left in the bidding process after early interest from the likes of China, Lebanon, Oman, Thailand, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia failed to materialise into official bids.
Iran’s chances of staging the competition were considered slim due to the country’s unwillingness to allow women to attend matches. The country also remains subject to Western sanctions over its nuclear programme, which has made it difficult for the FFIRI to stage home friendly matches for its men’s national team in recent years.
The AFC said its decision to award hosting rights to the UAE was based on respective merit of the bids that covered various objective criteria such as stadiums, transports, infrastructure, hotels, visas and various other sporting, logistical and administrative issues.
The awarding of the hosting rights comes after the conclusion of this year’s Asian Cup, which took place in Australia from January 9-31. The host nation saw off South Korea 2-1 after extra time in the final to secure its first-ever title.
The 2015 competition was the last edition of the Asian Cup to feature just 16 teams with the 2019 event to be expanded to include 24 sides. The AFC is said to be keen for more of its members to compete in the tournament and has merged the qualifying process for the competition with the one used for the Fifa World Cup.
“I would like to congratulate the UAE Football Association on their successful bid to host the AFC Asian Cup 2019,” AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa 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 that we have all just witnessed.”
The UAE is set to use six stadiums in three cities, two in Abu Dhabi, two in Dubai and the Khalifa International Stadium in Al Ain.