The finest footballers in Asia will descend on the UAE next year to battle it out in a spectacular sporting showpiece.
But fans here don’t have to just watch the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 action unfold from the stands – they can be part of it too.
Organisers have launched an amateur tournament which will give keen footballers in the UAE the chance to represent their country just like their professional compatriots.
The Asian Community Cup will add an extra dimension of excitement to the 24-nation tournament, which will pit the likes of Australia, UAE, South Korea and India against each other to be crowned the continent’s best.
It will take place across the four AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 host cities - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Al Ain and Sharjah.
His Excellency Aref Al Hamed Awani, tournament director for the Local Organizing Committee, said: “The UAE is special in that we are a multi-cultural country, with residents from many different backgrounds throughout Asia.
“We are thus uniquely suited to bring all of these nationalities together to compete in the Community Tournament which I’m sure will be of huge interest to football fans throughout the UAE.”
The AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, held between January 5 and February 1 2019, will be the first time the tournament is contested by 24 nations, having previously been made up of 16 teams.
The sides are split into six groups, with the UAE set to face Thailand, India and Bahrain to clear the first hurdle.
It becomes a knockout tournament after that, with each of the nations hoping to snatch the trophy from current holders Australia.
Just like the World Cup, it’s held every four years and the next staging will be the second time it has been held in the UAE, which hosted it in 1996.
Meanwhile, the amateur tournament is open to expats from the competing nations who live here in the UAE.
It will be seven-a-side, rather than 11 like the professional tournament, and the games will last 25 minutes each.
And each team will wear the official colours of their home nation, with complimentary kits provided.
Squads will be made up of 15 players, so if you fancy donning your country’s colours and making it proud on the football pitch, you should act quickly.
Don’t worry if your home nation isn’t one of the 24 competing, you can select another country you’d like to represent.
The first round of fixtures will take place on the weekend of October 26 and 27, followed by November 10 and 16, with the finals due to take place in January.
Amateur footballer Mazen Omran, who will represent his country, Saudi Arabia, in the Asian Community Tournament, said: “Football is a life-long passion for me so to take part in such a huge tournament is something that I cannot wait for.
“This tournament allows so many people to come together and share their love of football with the added pride of winning for our countries.”
Registration for the Asian Community Cup is now open to everybody aged 18 and older via www.asiancommunitycup.com.