Sport can build bridges when the world is being torn apart by conflict, a UAE newspaper opined.
Location matters in troubled times and the UAE has established itself as the country that connects the world, the paper said in its editorial, adding that in fact, it seeks to be the centre of the world with its open-door policies in every sector, even in sport. "A neutral country is often preferred for nations keen to settle their differences. Fans and players get the best of both worlds, and there are benefits for the local economy as well," Khaleej Times added.
The paper says that Cricket has emerged the winner with this change of location, and the UAE has ensured the game would not be disrupted by bilateral disputes with its willingness to host the event which features other heavyweights like Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.
The focus will be on the big four, but Afghanistan is no pushover as recent performances have shown. And Hong Kong could spring a surprise. No one is predicting the winner yet but the marquee clash is undoubtedly between defending champions India and Pakistan on Wednesday.
"That's the sporting way to predict how the tournament will go, but what's interesting is that the UAE has indeed become the hub of Asia, and cricket. Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis and Afghans live and work in the country and call it home. It represents the aspirations of these folks who love the game - a shared passion. It's part of their lives and conversations, and consumes every breathing moment for many," the English language newspaper noted.
And the UAE is the perfect host for such big-ticket tournaments. It all started in Sharjah in the 1980s. Dubai and Abu Dhabi now have world-class stadiums and have experience in hosting major international events, and national leagues like the IPL and PSL. The International Cricket Council has its headquarters in Dubai, which shows the clout the country wields. "We know of the UAE as a trade and commerce, aviation and lifestyle hub, but now it's making a sporting difference to the world by staging the Asia Cup on a neutral wicket," the paper concluded.
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