The countdown to the biggest international football tournament ever to be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) began today as the official emblem of the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 was unveiled at a glittering ceremony at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi.

The 15th edition of the tournament, which takes place across six UAE cities from 17 October to 8 November, is one of the biggest international football events in the world and is sure to be one of the highlights of the UAE sporting calendar in 2013.
The official emblem, spectacularly revealed by a group of young Emiratis at Tuesday’s ceremony, depicts an oyster shell and pearl in the national colours of the UAE, a reference to the country’s historical relationship with fishing and pearl diving.

Chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013, HE Yousef Y Al Serkal, explained the significance of the new emblem and its important role in officially launching this year’s tournament to the world. “It is a great honour for the UAE to have been chosen by FIFA to host this prestigious tournament and today we have unveiled an exciting tournament emblem that will be seen all around the world over the coming months,” said Al Serkal. “Pearl diving is part of our national heritage, as is the game of football, and it is natural for the two to come together in a celebration of sport and such an important international event.”

Twenty-four nations will compete for the prestigious FIFA U-17 World Cup trophy, aiming to emulate Mexico’s history-making champions of 2011 and be crowned the best teenage team on the planet. Over the years, the tournament has been the birthplace of some of the biggest stars in the game, with the likes of Ronaldinho (Brazil), Luis Figo (Portugal), Alessandro Del Piero (Italy) and Juan Sebastian Veron (Argentina) all having made their name as youngsters in previous FIFA U-17 World Cup tournaments. And 2013 is sure to be no different as the sporting world turns its attentions to the UAE to see who will emerge as the next international footballing superstar.

A total of 52 matches will be played over a three week period in six of the UAE’s top stadiums – Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Emirates Stadium in Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah Stadium in Fujairah, Sharjah Stadium in Sharjah, Rashid Stadium in Dubai and Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain. The final 24 qualified nations will begin the tournament in six groups of four, with the top two teams in each group automatically qualifying for the Round of 16. The four best third-placed teams from the group stage will also progress to the knock-out stages.

Among those hoping to etch their name on the trophy are host nation UAE, whose talented team of youngsters will have the full support of an expectant nation behind them. Already confirmed as joining the host nation in the final line-up of 24 finalists are Iran, Iraq, Japan and Uzbekistan, all of whom qualified by virtue of having reached the semi-finals of the 2012 AFC U-16 Championship last year. A further 19 nations will continue to battle it out in the qualifiers, with four places up for grabs in the CAF region, six from UEFA, four from CONCACAF, one from OFC and four from CONMEBOL.

Tickets for the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 are expected to go on sale from June 2013. For more information visit the links on the right.