DESPITE being played in the middle of a packed sporting schedule, the organising committee for the 2015 Asian Cup believes the tournament will prove a hit with local sports fans and create a rich football legacy for Australia.
Held six months after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, one month before Australia co-hosts the Cricket World Cup and at the same time as the Australian Open tennis – with a Rugby World Cup also starting in September – the battle for public attention will be fierce.
Not only that but the A-League, too, will kick off three months before the Asian Cup starts, breaking in January for the tournament.
While all that might seem to be counting against the showcase’s fight for attention, Michael Brown, head of the local organising committee, reckons it will capture the public’s imagination. Brown should know what the Asian Cup is up against – he spent nine years as Cricket Australia’s head of the cricket operations before quitting to take charge of the tournament, which will run from January 8 to 31.
“Australia has a wonderful history of putting on major events like the Rugby World Cup, Commonwealth Games, Olympic Games and, with the Cricket World Cup, it’s a massive event – but it will have a fantastic place after us,” he said. “This event that covers the vast area of Asia, from UAE in the east to Japan in the west, down to Australia. That’s half the world’s population. Australian people support all sport, that’s one of the great things about our culture and our history, and we’ll do the same for both these events.”
Brown even suggested that rather than going head-to-head with other events, they should work together to build a summer tourism mecca. “We want to connect with the Sydney Festival, we’ll connect with the Cricket World Cup and the tennis in Melbourne,” he said. “We want to add to what is a great time, in January, to be here. We want to showcase Australia to people who might not see it again.”
Wednesday marked two years until the first match of the Asian Cup, and while football fans have recently focused more on the A-League and the Socceroos’ World Cup ambitions, organisers are keen to spark mainstream enthusiasm and awareness.
The federal government is especially eager, as it is tipping in half of the $61 million of government assistance; the rest is shared by the participating states and territories. Football Federation Australia is left with a gap of $14 million, a figure it plans to make up through ticket and corporate sales and sponsorship. Federal Sports Minister Kate Lundy said the event marked a perfect opportunity to get eyes back on Australia.
“This event is going to attract enormous interest and coverage right around the world,” she said. ”It’s anticipated there will be some 1 billion viewers worldwide and, in Australia, 500,000 people will get involved in some capacity.”
Following the release of the ”Asian Century” white paper last year, Youth Minister Peter Garrett said regional bonds would grow rapidly from hosting such an event. “This tournament will provide a huge bridge for us in terms of connecting with Asia,” Garrett said.
”The fact is that two big countries to our north, China and India, are the major political and economic powers of this century.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.