AFC World Cup Qualifiers smash landmark digital engagement records

The AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar Final Round was the most engaging in history, surpassing all previous editions of Asia’s FIFA World Cup qualifying tournaments with more than 788 million impressions observed on the Asian Football Confederation (AFC)’s digital channels.

Held across 10 Match Days from September 2, 2021, to March 29, 2022, as well as last week’s AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar Playoff between eventual winners Australia and the United Arab Emirates, Asia’s top 12 sides battled across 61 matches with the Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia eventually clinching the Continent’s four automatic places, before the Socceroos claimed a record sixth AFC spot to join hosts Qatar.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the lead up to the qualifiers to be postponed on several occasions, but the necessary interruptions did little to dampen the appetite for and consumption of Asian football as passionate fans from across the globe continued to engage in record numbers.

Further underlining the fervour for the Asian game, the 788 million impressions was an astonishing 2,108% increase from the 2016-2017 campaign. At the same time, engagements on the AFC’s social media channels rose immensely across the two editions surging by 2,350% from 2.8 million to 70 million.

The AFC’s YouTube and Instagram platforms led the way in galvanising football fans from all corners of the globe, with 290.9 million and 212.3 million impressions, while Twitter received impressions of 46.3 million and Facebook gathered 142 million.

There was also a stunning 12,530% increase in video views on YouTube, as viewership rose from 1 million in 2016-2017 to 134.6 million in the recently concluded campaign, where nearly 2 million hours of watch time was recorded.

The introduction of several language platforms also contributed to the staggering increase with the newly introduced Mandarin-based channels attaining close to 100 million impressions as the AFC’s Weibo, Toutiao, and Douyin channels garnered 42.6 million, 18.2 million and 35.4 million impressions respectively.

Meanwhile, the world’s most reliable information and coverage hub of Asian football – the-AFC.com – witnessed a notable 155% increase in page views and a 136% increase in users.

AFC Technical Committee create new awards to improve standards

The AFC Technical Committee had its second meeting last weekend in Doha, Qatar on the eve of the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024 Final between Japan and Uzbekistan.

The official AFC meeting outlines new initiatives on awarding development and solidifying supportive structures.

In conjunction with the overall rise in Women’s football within the AFC’s associations and the wider FIFA football community, The AFC has decided to unveil the new accolade of the AFC Women’s International Player of the Year Award.

The eligibility criteria include that applicants:

  • Must be Asian
  • Playing in the leagues of other Confederations
  • Have recorded significant achievements for country or club

There has also been an adapted criteria for the existing AFC Women’s Player of the Year. Similarly, they must be Asian and a regular national team player, specifically in the AFC competitions, and any of the AFC’s Member Associations (MAs) leagues.

The goalkeeper position has also been given due recognition with the Goalkeeper of the Tournament Award in the revamped AFC Champions League Elite – Final Stage, which commences from the 2024/25 season.

These initiatives are important for the AFC acknowledging crucial technical roles in the footballing scene. These individual awards give the incentive for further support for women and goalkeeping by officially elevating their status in the AFC.

Also, there was the support of structured initiatives within the AFC, including the ‘Positive Play’ campaign – promoting attractive football for players, coaches and supporters endorsing the expectation of positive future playing styles. This is especially prominent in the upcoming AFC youth competition with the winning team receiving a certificate of achievement.

On the topic of youth and growth, the AFC Elite Youth Scheme and AFC grassroots charter have also received updates and growing drive, including importantly newly updated regulations for the AFC Coaching Convention.

However, these decisions need to be further ratified by the AFC Executive Committee. This is a promising statement that the AFC Technical Committee is strategising large investments in increasing standards throughout all levels of the AFC’s MAs.

This meeting should also intrigue keen investors, shareholders and clubs in the AFC Technical Committees objective to encourage development means they are willing to reward. financially and strategically. This supports their aim to achieve higher standards and results on and off the field.

It’s an encouraging sign of evolution in the Asian football schedule and an ambitious push by the AFC.

Football Australia reveals AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2026 host cities

Football Australia has confirmed that New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia have been chosen as the host states put forward for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2026.

The selection of candidate host states underscores Australia’s position as the exclusive bidder for the event, supported by a recommendation from the AFC Women’s Football Committee in March and also the withdrawal of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan’s applications.

The final decision on hosting rights is anticipated to be approved by the AFC Executive Committee in May.

Building on the incredible triumph of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023, this bid seeks to maintain and amplify the economic and social benefits of significant women’s football tournaments. The event is forecasted to yield up to $260 million in economic output and foster the creation of over 1,000 job opportunities.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson highlighted the significance of staging the tournament said via press release:

“Hosting the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2026 offers a golden opportunity to continue the dynamic growth and popularity of women’s football in Australia,” he said.

“Last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup laid a robust foundation, and we are eager to build upon this legacy to further enhance our football landscape both nationally and regionally.”

Johnson underlines the power of government backing.

“The backing from all levels of government is crucial as we tackle the surge in participation and the urgent need for improved facilities, this support is essential to maintain the momentum and ensure the continuous development of the sport across this country,” he added via media release.

“The Federal Government’s ‘Play Our Way’ Grants program is a welcomed initiative to address the community facilities gap.”

The achievements of Australian national teams, such as the Subway Socceroos and CommBank Matildas, have spurred a nationwide surge in football involvement. There was a notable 12% rise in 2023, and an impressive 20% increase has already been observed in 2024.

Football Australia is capitalizing on the AFC Women’s Asian Cup as an opportunity to elevate participation rates and advance the sport, aligning its efforts with upcoming international events like the Brisbane 2032 Olympics & Paralympics.

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