Qatar Olympic Committee encourage whole nation to get behind national football team in AFC U23 championships

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The Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) has extended their best wishes to the U23 football team ahead of their participation in the AFC U23 Championships, which begin in Doha on 12th January. The competition also provides an opportunity for a Qatari football team to qualify for the Olympic Games for the first time in 24 years.

Speaking on behalf of the QOC, President Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, said:

“On behalf of the whole Qatar Olympic Committee I would like to wish all the best to our U23 football team in the upcoming AFC Championships. This is a very talented young team and we look forward to following their progress throughout the tournament. 2016 is a milestone year for Olympic sport in Qatar and we encourage the whole nation to get behind the team as they compete to qualify for Rio 2016. We are already very proud of the team and I hope that everyone will join us by sharing our pride, celebrating our passion for sport and uniting in support of the team on their journey.”

The AFC U23 Championships will take place in Doha from 12th-30th January and involves 16 teams from the AFC’s Member Associations. Qatar is in Group A and will play China in its first match on 12th January at 7.30pm at the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium, before playing Iran on 15th January and Syria on 18th January. The top two teams from each group will progress to the quarterfinals, which take place on 22nd and 23rd January.

It is the first time that the AFC U23 Championship will also serve as a qualifier for the Olympic Games, which take place in Rio de Janeiro from 5th-21st August 2016, with the tournament’s top three teams qualifying. In order to allow teams from around the world to compete equally, members of Olympic teams must be under 23 years old, with the exception of three over-23 players allowed per squad. Qatar last qualified for the Olympic football tournament in 1992 when they achieved their best result to date of reaching the quarterfinals. The U23 team’s biggest success in history was claiming the gold medal at the 2006 Asian Games.

Several of Qatar’s current U23 squad were members of the historic team that won the 2014 AFC U19 Championships. These include Ahmed Moein, the tournament’s MVP and AFC Young Player of the Year in 2014, and Akram Afif, scorer of four goals in the tournament, including the winner in the final against DPR Korea.  

Speaking ahead of this year’s Olympic Games, Dr Thani Al Kuwari, Secretary General of the Qatar Olympic Committee said:

“2016 is an incredibly exciting year for the Qatar Olympic Committee and we are working hard to provide full support to our athletes on their journeys to Rio 2016. The Olympic Games are the pinnacle of every athlete’s career and simply qualifying is the culmination of many years of hard work, dedication and commitment. Our athletes are true role models for our nation and we hope that they will inspire a new generation of sporting heroes to follow in their footsteps. We wish the U23 team well in the AFC Championships and also pass our congratulations to the Local Organising Committee and everyone involved in the organisation of this prestigious tournament. We have no doubt that Qatar will once again raise the bar and the Championships will be a huge success.”

Several Qatari teams and athletes have already qualified for Rio 2016, including the Equestrian team, Men’s Handball team, who were silver medallists at last year’s World Championships, and members of the athletics team, including 2014 World Indoor Champion and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist, Mutaz Barshim and World Junior Champion, Ashraf Elseify.

You can follow the progress of Team Qatar on their journeys to Rio 2016 on the QOC’s social media channels.

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