Dubai: The Asian Football Family . Tonight is special. It marks the kick off of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
Asia’s top 24 teams will compete in the greatest ever Asian Cup in 246 days.
Here in this wonderful venue in such a remarkable city, they will learn their opponents.
The fact that the AFC is here in the United Arab Emirates demonstrates the country’s exceptional ability to stage world class events.
This has been possible because of the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Makhtoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of the Abu Dhabi,
I congratulate your Highnesses and thank you for your hospitality here in the UAE.
I also wish to pay tribute to their Highnesses members of the Supreme Council and Rulers of the Emirates.
In addition, I must thank His Excellency Major General Mohammed Khalfan Al Romaithi, for his kind welcome and recognise the members of both his Higher Local Organising Committee and the AFC’s Organising Committee for their hard work
Tonight, we celebrate a new chapter in the glorious history of the Asian Cup here in the United Arab Emirates.
A bright and glittering future for football in Asia.
And we welcome to this magnificent venue, the representatives of the nations who have qualified for the biggest and most exciting ever AFC Asian Cup.
This Asian Cup is -- as the slogan says – Bringing Asia Together.
We have teams from each of the five AFC zones, and have teams who are competing for the first time.
I have no doubt that the UAE, one of the Continent’s, most dynamic and visionary country will be the perfect stage for this historic tournament.
This is the second time that the UAE has staged this competition – the other back in 1996 – when just 12 teams qualified.
The fact that the competition has now doubled demonstrates how far Asian football has progressed in 22 years.
In addition to more teams and more opportunities, the AFC wants to reward success.
So I am pleased to announce tonight that the prize money for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 will total almost 15 million US dollars.
It means all 24 teams will receive a participation fee of 200,000 dollars.
The losing semi finalists will receive one million dollars, the runners-up 3 million dollars.
And the winners of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 will collect 5 million dollars.
But this new prize money is not the only innovation at the Asian Cup.
Earlier this evening I had the pleasure on behalf of the AFC of signing the contract with the Japanese football manufacturers Molten.
Already recognised for their great quality – Molten will produce the footballs for so many of the AFC’s main competitions – including the AFC Asian Cup.
This demonstrates the AFC’s belief in Asian manufacturers and Asian footballs
And I believe that we will get a glimpse of the ball later in the evening.
Finally, no competition is complete without a trophy.
And in a few moments we will unveil the new AFC Asian Cup trophy.
We have had the same trophy since 1956 and in keeping with the new and exciting future of the competition, the AFC decided to commission a new trophy.
Designed and crafted by world-renowned silversmiths the trophy captures the history, unity, excitement and drama of the tournament ahead. We thank them.
I also thank the 24 teams and their Member Associations, the Local Organising Committee, the UAE FA, and the host cities and authorities of Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai and Sharjah as well as broadcast and commercial partners.
We are all determined that the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 will be the greatest tournament we have ever held.
And this event in such an iconic venue in an iconic city is the perfect way to kick off the new era of Asian football.
By bringing Asia together
Thank you and good luck to all the teams.