Amateur footballers can represent UAE at Asian Cup warm-up event
The Asian Cup may not start until next year - but amateur footballers can kick off the celebrations early by pitching in for a community tournament.
The 24-nation AFC Asian Cup - featuring the cream of the continent's teams such as Japan, South Korea and defending champions Australia - will be hosted in the UAE for the first time in 23 years, in January.
But if that feels too long to wait for your footballing fix, the seven-a-side Asian Community Cup tournament gets under way in October.
The amateur tournament will act as a precursor to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 and will give players the chance to live out their dreams by representing their country.
Teams and individual footballers can sign up for the tournament, providing they are over the age of 18. They will select their home nation or country of choice to represent throughout the tournament, and this includes host nation the UAE.
Each team will be kitted out in the official colours of their home nation, with complimentary kits provided by the tournament's organisers.
Matches in the tournament will last 25 minutes and each squad will be made up of 15 players.
The festival of football will be held at a number of venues across the four AFC Asian Cup host cities, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Al Ain and Sharjah.
Aref Al Hamed Awani, tournament director for the local organising committee, said the UAE was "uniquely suited"' to bring together different nationalities through the power of sport.
“The UAE is special in that we are a multicultural country, with residents from many different backgrounds throughout Asia," he said.
“We are uniquely suited to bring all of these nationalities together to compete in the community tournament which I’m sure will be of huge interest to football fans throughout the UAE.”
Amateur footballer Mazen Omran, was the first player to sign up, representing Saudi Arabia.
“Football is a life-long passion for me so to take part in such a huge tournament is something that I cannot wait for,” he said.
“This tournament allows so many people to come together and share their love of football. with the added pride of winning for our countries.”
The Asian Community Cup will take place on the weekends in the build-up to the tournament and will conclude in a finale during the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
The first round of fixtures will take place on the weekend of October 26 and 27, followed by fixtures on November 10 and 16. The finals of the competition will take place in January.
The AFC Asian Cup itself will be held in the UAE from January 5 to February 19.
Updated: September 12, 2018 01:44 PM