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Qatar ready to host ‘exceptional’ Asian Cup, says AFC president

Featured image credit: Visit Qatar on Unsplash

Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), has said the upcoming Asian Cup in Qatar will be a tournament of firsts and has praised the local organising committee for delivering the event at short notice.

The Asian Cup will take place from January 12 to February 10. The event had initially been due to take place in China in the summer of 2023 but the country relinquished its hosting rights in May 2022 amid the continued challenges created by its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qatar was confirmed as the host country in October 2022 and the tournament was shifted from mid-2023 to early 2024 in an effort to avoid the heat of the Gulf summer.

In April last year, the AFC confirmed the dates and venues for the Asian Cup, with several of Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup stadia chosen for the tournament. Lusail Stadium, which hosted the World Cup final, was initially omitted from the venue list but was added to the line-up in August.

Lusail Stadium will stage Friday’s opening match between host nation Qatar and Lebanon, as well as the final on February 10. The other venues that will be used are Al Janoub Stadium, Al Bayt Stadium, Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium, Al Thumama Stadium, Education City Stadium, Khalifa International Stadium, Jassim bin Hamad Stadium and Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium.

Shaikh Salman said: “We are all aware that this is the shortest ever runway that we have had to organise the pinnacle stage of Asian men’s football. But in another remarkable display of Asian football unity, we have shown the world that we are ready to stage an exceptional tournament.

“And of course, so much of this has been made possible all thanks to our dear friends from the Qatar Football Association and the local organising committee. Just over a year ago, Qatar hosted the greatest-ever edition of the FIFA World Cup and now the stage is set for the grandest ever AFC Asian Cup to date.”

This year’s tournament will also feature the first edition of the AFC eAsian Cup from February 1-5. Semi-automated offside technology and video assistant referees will also be used across all 51 matches for the first time.

Qatar last hosted the Asian Cup in 2011 and won the most recent edition in the United Arab Emirates.