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Tribune News Network

DOHA: The AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023saw the participation of more than 700 children as player escorts, flagbearers and ball crew. As part of the Local Organising Committee’s (LOC) Youth Programme, children from across Qatar were provided with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to partake in match day ceremonies and get closer to the football action on the pitch.

The LOC’s Youth Programme initiative garnered tremendous interest amongst children in Qatar looking to play a role in the tournament. Following a rigorous recruitment process, which began months ahead of the tournament, children from ages 6-15 were selected for the various roles on match days.

The exciting line-up of pre-match ceremonies at the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023utilised eight flag bearers who were the first to greet teeming fans inside the stadiums, followed by 11 player escorts accompanying national players onto the pitch. This also included an official match ball carrier who handed over the ball to the referee. In addition, 14 ball crew members were stationed around the field of play, providing them with the unique opportunity of being up close to the live action on the pitch.

Jaham Al Kuwari, LOC Marketing Rights Delivery Director, saw this initiative as an incredible opportunity for Qatar’s younger generation to be part of the tournament: “This was a wonderful experience for children. It allowed them to step inside the heart of the stadium and watch first-hand the pulsating action of a match from a unique standpoint. We were keen to offer children a role in contributing towards the success of the Asian Cup, and we hope this initiative inspired them to appreciate the beautiful game even more.”

Cesar Jansen, a 15-year-old student in Qatar, shared his excitement about being a ball crew member for the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023: “Watching the match from the pitch-side and seeing how the stadium came to life during the game was a surreal experience. The moments that were a pure adrenaline rush were when I got the chance to throw the ball back to the players.”

Qatar hosted the AFC Asian Cupfor a record third time after successfully hosting it in 1988 and 2011. Twenty-four of the continent’s best teams competed for the continent’s most prestigious football title. A total of 51 matches were played across nine stadiums from January 12 to February 10.

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