Asian legends hold skills clinic for kids

Dubai: Some of Asian football’s biggest names took part in a skills clinic in Dubai over the weekend to mark the draw for the UAE-hosted 2019 Asian Cup, which took place on Friday.

The event saw India captain Sunil Chhetri, former China player Sun Jihai and Thailand legend Pipat Thonkanya hold a crossbar challenge and skills demonstration for local children under the Burj Khalifa, in the first of many events to promote next year’s Asian Cup from January 5 to February 1.

Tournament director of the local organising committee, Aref Hamad Al Awani, said: “Already young dreams are coming true and the next generation is being inspired. That’s our mission and we hope the impact goes beyond football. We want to excite and embrace each community living in the UAE and unite them through this beautiful game.

“We are blessed to have such a diverse nation but this tournament has the power to connect us all. You just have to look at the smiles on their faces and feel the energy created by bringing people together through football to know this tournament is going to be very special. For these children their countdown to January 5 has already started and we hope that excitement will spread across the country.”

Chhetri said: “This tournament is massive. Yes, it’s good for everyone in Asia to have the best 24 countries playing each other, but especially for India. The game is really growing and just qualifying for big tournaments like this means everything. It could also feel like a ‘home’ tournament if the Indian community in the UAE come out in numbers and support us. But any fan who loves the game can support India. We promise to put on a show.”

Jihai added: “Football really is the number one sport in the world. It connects people and countries like no other. Just look at how it’s brought these children together and helped create new friendships. Recently China has invested a lot into football and we are improving. Perhaps in the future we can win a championship like the Asian Cup, but we need our fans to support us. Anyone who loves football in China should come to the UAE. The fans are part of our squad. We need their fighting spirit and support to help our performances.”

Thonkanya said: “For the first time young children in Thailand want to grow up and become professional footballers. That is very exciting. So as a team we need to play on the biggest stage in Asian football, to inspire more to follow in our footsteps.”

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