With only 500 days to go until AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 kicks off Lucas Neill has been announced as the tournament's Captain Ambassador.
Lucas Neill will crown his glittering Socceroos career by serving as the Captain Ambassador for AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015.
Neill-s appointment was announced in Sydney by AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 Local Organising Committee Chairman Frank Lowy AC as the 500-day countdown began to the biggest football tournament ever held in Australia.
“I have long dreamed of a football event this big coming to Australian shores,” Neill said.
“I am passionate about growing the game in Australia and the Asian Cup is a great opportunity for fans to see world-class football right in their backyard. To actually be part of it in the capacity of Captain Ambassador makes it doubly special for me.
“I feel very proud and deeply honoured. It-s like wearing the captain-s armband, but never having to take it off,” said Neill, fresh from signing a contract to play club football in Japan, the reigning Asian champion.
Mr Lowy said Neill was one of the most recognisable faces in Australian football. He had played in both of Australia-s previous Asian Cup campaigns and led the Socceroos in their last attempt.
“It is fitting that Lucas should be the face of the Asian Cup as it comes to Australia for the first time,” Mr Lowy said.
“I am pleased that Lucas has accepted this honour and I know as ambassador he will do his utmost to promote the AFC Asian Cup both in Australia and throughout Asia.”
Local Organising Committee Chief Executive Officer Michael Brown said the tournament was the biggest sporting event in Asia, and represented a key opportunity for Australian governments, business, tourism and sporting interests to engage with the region early in the Asian century.
“It is exciting today to unveil the countdown clock to mark 500 Days to Go until the Asian Cup kicks off in Melbourne on 9 January, 2015,” Mr Brown said.
“Today we are also releasing a promotional reel to boost excitement in the Asian Cup, highlighting our beautiful host cities.
“With Lucas Neill as our Captain Ambassador we are confident that we can spread the word about the Asian Cup to both traditional football fans and the wider community.”
Neill, a fixture in the green and gold for the past decade, is well placed to enhance the tournament-s profile. The 35-year-old Australian skipper has amassed 92 caps since making his national team debut as an 18-year-old in 1996.
He commanded international attention with his sterling defensive performances at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and led his country with distinction at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Neill has again been a stalwart of the Brazil 2014 campaign, and scored his first international goal with a header in the qualifier against Jordan in Melbourne in June.
“There could be few more fitting swansongs to Lucas- stellar career than to hold the Asian Cup aloft before his family and home town fans at Sydney-s Olympic Stadium on 31 January, 2015,” Mr Brown said.
“I know the Socceroos hope to follow up their third consecutive World Cup finals appearance in Brazil next year by winning the Asian Cup at their third attempt.”
The Socceroos bowed out in the quarter finals in 2007 and fell to Japan 1-0 in extra time in the 2011 final.
The tournament, which kicks off less than six months after the World Cup final in Brazil, is the pinnacle for the 47 nations of the Asian Football Confederation.
Australia, Japan, Korean Republic and DPR Korea have already qualified for Australia 2015. Qualifying for the remaining 12 positions is underway.
AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 will take place from January 9-31 in five host cities - Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Newcastle.
The tournament is being jointly funded by the Australian Government and the NSW, Victorian, Queensland and ACT Governments.
For more information on AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 visit www.afcasiancup.com