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Canberra plays major part in 2015 Asian Cup

Canberra fans determined to show support   are Keith Lee for South Korea, Yasmina Pratt for Oman, Sam Yang for South Korea, Tariq Alkhamsan for Kuwait, Basheer Al Nuaimi for Bahrain,  Abdulla Al Nuaimi for Iraq, Fuxin Li and Stanley Li for China, Faisal Al Mazrouei for UAE, Cameron Butler for Australia, , Youssef Rekni for Qatar, Amer Alaa Toutounji for Qatar, Fanar Alkhamsan for Kuwait, Suhail Abdulla for UAE, Jetson and Jordan Butler for Australia and Youssef Bedir for Bahrain.

Canberra fans determined to show support are Keith Lee for South Korea, Yasmina Pratt for Oman, Sam Yang for South Korea, Tariq Alkhamsan for Kuwait, Basheer Al Nuaimi for Bahrain, Abdulla Al Nuaimi for Iraq, Fuxin Li and Stanley Li for China, Faisal Al Mazrouei for UAE, Cameron Butler for Australia, , Youssef Rekni for Qatar, Amer Alaa Toutounji for Qatar, Fanar Alkhamsan for Kuwait, Suhail Abdulla for UAE, Jetson and Jordan Butler for Australia and Youssef Bedir for Bahrain. Photo: Melissa Adams

Canberra will be front and centre during the biggest sporting event in Asia next year.

For 14 days in January, the Asian Cup will thrust Australia's national capital into the spotlight as it hosts seven games and 10 countries with a potential television broadcast reach of a staggering 2.5 billion people.

Asian powerhouse South Korea will play two games at Canberra Stadium, and China is also expected to draw a big crowd for its game against North Korea.

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Canberra Stadium will host a quarter-final and six pool games, the biggest allocation of games for any of the venues in Australia.

Keith Lee has lived in Canberra for the past 14 years after moving to Australia from South Korea.

He expects the large South Korean population in Australia to get behind the Asian Cup, especially the two games his country has in Canberra.

"There are about two to three thousand Koreans in Canberra and are about a 100,000 Koreans in Sydney, so I'm working with the Sydney Korean association to bring spectators and supporters to Canberra,'' Lee said.

"The Asian Cup is the largest football event in Canberra ever since the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

"There has been some international games since, but this is the Asian Cup.

"This will bring Canberra to the world, so I'm very excited.''

The first Asian Cup was held in 1954 in Hong Kong and featured seven of the 12 countries in the Asian Football Confederation.

Australia was admitted to the AFC in 2006 and entered the Asian Cup for the first time the following year.

After a disappointing campaign in 2007 where they were eliminated by Iraq in the quarter-finals, the Socceroos made it all the way to the final in 2011.

However, they were beaten by Japan 1-0 in extra time in Doha.

A total of 46 countries took part in the qualification process for the 2015 Asian Cup before it was whittled down to the top 16.

Australia, Japan and South Korea automatically qualified as the top three teams at the 2011 Asian Cup.

The 10 countries that will play in Canberra are: South Korea (twice), UAE (twice), Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, China, North Korea, Iraq and Palestine.

It is the first major competition Palestine has qualified for after it won the AFC Challenge Cup last week.

More than 500,000 spectators are expected to attend the Asian Cup's 32 matches from January 9 to 31 across the five host cities, Canberra, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Newcastle. That includes 45,000 international visitors.

The tournament has a potential television reach of 2.5 billion people.

Faisal Almazrouei is a diplomat for the UAE embassy, and is excited at seeing his country on the biggest stage in Asia.

"Just to be a part of the international community at the Asian Cup is a great honour,'' he said. "Football is the No.1 sport in the UAE.

"It's growing very, very quickly and we are so proud of our national team.

"We're looking forward to seeing how they play here and we're happy to see how they do.''

Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop said the timing of the Asian Cup in Australia couldn't be better, coming just seven months after the World Cup in Brazil.

“The planets have never aligned like this before,” Gallop said. “The Socceroos play their fourth World Cup, and their third in succession, in the tournament’s most successful nation, five-times winner Brazil.

“And no sooner is that over than the spotlight focuses on the biggest football tournament ever held in Australia, the Asian Cup.

“While the excitement around the World Cup is palpable, at the same time individual tickets are about to go on sale for the Asian Cup, so fans should start planning for an unforgettable summer of football in their own backyard.”

ASIAN CUP 2015 CANBERRA MATCHES

  • January 10: Korea Republic v Oman
  • January 11: UAE v QatarJanuary 13: Kuwait v Korea Republic
  • January 15: Bahrain v UAEJanuary 18: China PR v DPR Korea
  • January 20: Iraq v Palestine
  • January 23: Quarter final 3 (1st Group C v 2nd Group D)

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