The Special Olympic World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 is drawing ever-closer, and excitement for the football tournament is at fever pitch.
The groups have now been drawn for the first rounds of matches, meaning the 14 teams now know who they will each face in 11-a-side tournament, which takes place at Zayed Sports City.
Arabian Gulf League stars Mohamed Khalfan and Tongo Doumbia of Al Ain FC and Subait Khater of Fujairah FC drew the matches on live TV.
The UAE team is in Group A and will compete against Spain, South Africa and Jamaica.
Group B will see Bangladesh, Serbia and Korea play each other, while Group C pits India, Denmark, Kenya and USA against each other.
Making up Group D is Oman, Austria and Rwanda.
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The UAE team will be aiming to build on its impressive third-place finish at last year’s inaugural Unified Football Cup.
Held in Chicago, as part of the Special Olympics’ 50th Anniversary celebrations, the UAE impressed in the group stages before suffering a penalty shoot-out defeat to Uruguay.
Since making its debut at the World Games in 1986, football is one of the largest sports on the program, featuring traditional and unified teams across the 11-a-side, 7-a-side and futsal competitions.
Football will be one of 24 officially sanctioned Olympic-style sports on the roster. With more than 7,500 athletes from over 190 nations set to compete between 14-21 March, Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 will be the largest sports and humanitarian event of the year.
Let the games begin.
Tue Mar 12-Thu Mar 21. Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi, www.abudhabi2019.org.