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The remarkable rise of Asia’s greatest showpiece

Wednesday, December 5, 2018
AFC Asian Cup trophy collage - 1

Abu Dhabi: Rising from humble beginnings, the transformation of the AFC Asian Cup is undeniably one of the greatest success stories in modern day football.

Next month’s showpiece is poised to be the biggest and most thrilling edition to date as a record 24 nations land in the UAE in the coming days to compete for Continental glory.

AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said: “The AFC Asian Cup has grown from strength-to-strength since its first edition in 1956. This is a result of the unity and commitment of the AFC and all our Member Associations working together towards our Vision and Mission to raise the standards of competitions in Asia.”

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The world’s second-oldest continental football competition has come a long way since its first edition in 1956 - two years after the formation of the Asia Football Confederation (AFC) – with Korea Republic prevailing when just four teams competed in Hong Kong.

The Taeguk Warriors successfully defended their crown on home soil in 1960 before the Islamic Republic of Iran stamped their mark with three successive titles, a feat that remains unmatched in the competition’s history.

The most memorable of Team Melli’s treble was on June 13, 1976, when Ali Parvin’s 73rd minute strike sent a record 100,000 capacity home crowd - another landmark that still stands today - into euphoria at the Aryamehr Stadium (now Azadi Stadium), confirming the Central Asians status as Asia’s greatest side of that era.

(Click on the image below to view the album of previous AFC Asian Cup winners)


Four years later, the seventh edition marked its first expansion when it grew from six to ten teams as the competition ushered in a new era of dominance by teams in West Asia with hosts Kuwait claiming their solitary title before, Saudi Arabia clinched three titles from 1984 to 1996.

China PR was the stage for the next flight of growth when 16 teams competed in the 2004 edition as the title dominance shifted to the East. Japan cemented their place in history as the competition’s most successful team with four victories from 1992 to 2011 - a record made even more impressive given that the Samurai Blue made their debut in Qatar 1988.

As the football fans around the globe turn their attention to the UAE for the second time since 1996, the AFC has spared no efforts in raising the quality of the tournament in recent months.


UAE 2019 - Meet the teams

The AFC President added: “From modest beginnings, the AFC Asian Cup has evolved into one of the most anticipated sporting events in the world. Each edition has strengthened the foundations for the next and the AFC together with our MAs, the LOC and partners will continue to work collectively to ensure the 2019 showpiece in the UAE will leave a lasting legacy for many years to come.”

In the spirit of the competition’s slogan ‘Bringing Asia Together,’ the 17th edition will not only feature teams from all the five AFC zones, it will be the richest-ever with the introduction of a new USD$14.8 million prize purse and will see the ultimate champions lift a dazzling new trophy on February 1, 2019.

A new match ball sponsor in Molten and the use of the Video Assistance Referees system from the quarter-finals stage have also been introduced to enhance the stature of the competition.

“The astonishing rise of the AFC Asian Cup mirrors the growth of football in Asia over the decades, but more importantly, it exemplifies the AFC’s ambitions, through its Vision and Mission, to establish a truly world-class stage for our players, teams and passionate fans,” added Shaikh Salman.

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