The dreams of a group of talented university students from across the UAE came have been realised after they were selected for the starting lineup of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Local Organising Committee’s “Home Team”.
After a long selection process, the successful students anticipated a day of formal briefings and orientation at the AFC Asian Cup offices before embarking on their three-month internship programme. But after being shuttled only a short distance away, they found themselves on the pitch of the famous Zayed Sports City stadium, where they were joined by Dubai Eye’s leading host of “Sport Tonight”, Chris McHardy.
McHardy led the delighted students through to the stadium changing rooms, where “Home Team” kits had been prepared, before launching into an impassioned team talk about each player’s responsibilities in “Bringing Asia Together” over the coming months.
For these aspiring young professionals, it was an unconventional start to a programme which will see them play an important role in raising awareness for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 to the different communities. With wide-ranging and comprehensive responsibilities, the team will contribute to the pre-tournament build up by promoting the tournament to businesses, schools and communities.
“It’s amazing. For the first day of my internship, I was not expecting to find myself on the pitch of Zayed Sports City,” Home Team member Mariam Taha from Al Ain said. “With Chris acting as manager and outlining everyone’s roles, I think we all became really excited about the road ahead. He told me Abu Dhabi is my pitch and that it was up to me to unite the communities in the capital behind this great tournament. I’ve got lots to do and I can’t wait to get started. I’m proud and excited.”
Regarding the personal significance of being chosen for the team, Mariam added: “I absolutely love football and as soon as I heard the AFC Asian Cup was coming to the UAE I wanted to play a part. To win a place on the “Home Team” is just so special because it gives me the opportunity to pass on my passion for the game, make sure everyone learns about the tournament and gain some valuable business experience along the way”.
Aref Hamed Al Awani, Tournament Director of the Local Organising Committee stressed the importance of having a diverse group of individuals to engage with the different communities.
“We have the potential in the UAE for this competition to feel like a ‘home’ tournament for every nation if we can get communities to rally behind their teams and our AFC Home Team will seek to do just that, by meeting face-to-face and sharing their passion for football,” he said. “In fact, this tournament isn’t only about football. It’s about inspiring the next generation and providing an opportunity for our young people to develop and grow. The “Home Team” programme has been exclusively designed and tailored to nurture student talent here in the UAE through the opportunity granted by this major sporting event.”