Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifah congratulated Qatar on creating history as the West Asians became only the fifth team to defend their AFC Asian Cup crown after defeating Jordan 3-1 in a pulsating Final at the Lusail Stadium on Saturday.
“In their first ever final, Jordan were worthy opponents, and both finalists were outstanding from start to finish, producing riveting moments that will live on long in our memories, and we must praise the Qatar Football Association and the Jordan Football Association for their dedication to elevate the beautiful game at all levels. I am certain that the performances of both teams will serve to inspire the future generation of players, not only in their respective nations, but also across our great Continent.”
Sheikh Salman also reiterated his appreciation to the Qatar Football Association, the AFC Asian Cup Qatar Local Organising Committee, and Qatari authorities for a spectacular tournament that will take its place as the most successful men’s flagship edition in history.
“From the FIFA World Cup venues, the world-class infrastructure, the seamless connectivity, the absorbing atmosphere all across the city of Doha, and unrivalled hospitality from the people of Qatar, the AFC Asian Cup Qatar was unlike anything we have ever experienced or witnessed in the tournament’s proud history.
“On behalf of the Asian football family, I would like to convey a big heartfelt thank you to the Qatar Football Association, the Local Organising Committee and the Qatari authorities for their exceptional hosting capabilities and for delivering a tournament that will go down as the greatest ever Asian football masterpiece,” added the AFC president.
“Qatar is undoubtedly one of the elite sporting destinations across the globe. Prior to the tournament, as hosts of the FIFA World Cup, expectations of Qatar were indeed high and understandably so, but I know I speak for everyone when I say Qatar have not just met those expectations, but far exceeded all our aspirations.”
New Digital Engagement, TV Viewership, Spectatorship Records
The AFC president also paid tribute to the absorbing and vibrant atmosphere created by the passionate fans of Asian football. The world’s largest football community turned up in droves to rally behind the continent’s top 24 sides with more than 1.5mn supporters showcasing their fervour across the 51 matches, making the AFC Asian Cup Qatar the most-attended showpiece in history.
Not only did the 18th edition of the tournament surpass the previous 1.04mn attendance record, but it also saw the nine world-class stadiums achieve an average of 73% capacity – a 13% increase from the best-ever showing set in China in 2004. It was also the second attendance milestone to be broken after 82,490 fans set a new opening match record when Qatar defeated Lebanon at the Lusail Stadium.
At the same time, the preliminary digital engagement and broadcast figures have reaffirmed the AFC Asian Cup Qatar as the most appealing edition in history, with digital impressions crossing the 5.5bn mark and broadcast figures also poised to smash TV viewership records.
Sheikh Salman said: “The AFC Asian Cup Qatar has firmly cemented its place as the most engaging in history so from the bottom of my heart, I would like to put on record my sincere appreciation to all our fans as well as our dedicated volunteers for showcasing their enthusiasm and breathing life into the competition through their unprecedented support.”
Historic Performances by Asian Teams
Turning his attention to the pulsating action, Sheikh Salman also lauded the remarkable progress of Asian teams on the pitch. Four sides – Palestine, Syria, Indonesia and Tajikistan – reached the knockout stage for the first time – the highest number since the tournament transitioned from its round-robin format in 1972 – with Jordan reaching their first-ever final and Tajikistan emerging as the first debutants since Australia in 2007 to reach the quarter-finals.
The AFC president added: “For several years now, we have placed great emphasis on the need to narrow the gap between the traditional powerhouses and the emerging teams. Across the 51 matches, the level of intensity and determination displayed by all our teams was evident for all to see. This was the driving force behind our decision to expand the tournament, to provide more Member Associations with the opportunity to compete at the highest level, and I firmly believe that the collective standards across Asian football are indeed strengthening.
“Analysts and experts have been highlighting the exciting unpredictability of Asian football, but our teams have simply reinforced what the AFC has known all along, that there are no straightforward matches at this level and the outcome is never a foregone conclusion, firmly underscoring the high standards of the top-tier game in Asia.
Sheikh Salman concluded: “Ultimately, the biggest victors were the entire Asian football family and our member associations, in particular, deserve our praise for their commitment to rise to the occasion and to produce the unrivalled moments that once again reinforced the rising standards of the Asian game. The AFC Asian Cup Qatar is undoubtedly our crowning moment.”
Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifah.