AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 tournament ambassadors – United Arab Emirates (UAE) legend Zuhair Bakheet and Saudi Arabian icon Majed Abdullah – have made a rallying call to all fans to showcase their full support as the Continent’s most coveted showpiece opened to a rousing start at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Saturday.
The famed duo may have opposing views on their favourites to win the competition but were unanimous in their assessment of the tournament 23 years after the previous edition in the UAE.
“There is a genuine sense of enthusiasm around the competition, especially now after the opening match. From everywhere we have been, whether it is at schools or roadshow, the passion is undeniable.
“The AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 has already found its place in Asian football history as the biggest-ever tournament. I encourage everyone to come on this once-in-a-lifetime journey, to be part of football history,” said Bakheet, who played in three AFC Asian Cups as well as the FIFA World Cup in Italy in 1990.
The UAE legend was readily endorsed by fellow ambassador Abdullah. The pair have become synonymous with the tournament, touring across the UAE to bring cheer to school children, volunteers and galvanising numerous community groups.
“The fans are the heartbeat of football. And the level of excitement is growing not only in the UAE but can be felt all across the Continent,” said two-time AFC Asian Cup winner Majed Abdullah.
“Asian football has come a long way since the last time the competition was held here. Today the standard of football in Asia has improved dramatically. Many teams who were emerging are now genuine contenders. There are so many favourites who have a good chance at winning, so I expect the level of competition to be very intense.
“This bodes well for the growth of Asian football but ultimately, the real winners are the fans who now can enjoy access to world-class football action.”
Abdullah continued to reflect on his achievements in the AFC Asian Cup, commenting: “For me, this competition will always be one of the most cherished moments in my entire career. “Even till today people talk about our triumphs in the AFC Asian Cup. It is the greatest stage for Asian players and a platform that helped shaped my career tremendously.”
With the tournament now in full swing, Bakheet concluded, “The AFC Asian Cup continues to grow and excite thousands of fans across more nations. To be an ambassador for the biggest ever tournament which is also in my home country, fills me with immense pride. It is a tournament which will entertain, excite and unite so many people and I am delighted to play my part.”