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Kuala Lumpur: The Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) commitment to ensure football remains the most popular sport in the continent has been further strengthened as an unprecedented 38 Member Associations (MA) pledged to celebrate the AFC Grassroots Football Day 2017 on Monday.

Celebrating a new participation record for the fifth successive year since 2013, enthusiasts of the beautiful game of all ages and abilities will commemorate the landmark occasion this year, marking a consecutive year-on-year increase of nearly 60% from 2015 to 2017.

AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said: “Every journey in football begins at the grassroots. The AFC Grassroots Football Day brings to life our ambition, under the banner of One Asia, One Goal, to ensure that football continues to flourish and expand its reach to all segments of our continent.

“I am delighted to see our Member Associations embracing the core values of leadership, professionalism and unity by empowering and bringing joy to people and communities of all backgrounds through football.

“Ultimately, the strong foundation we build today will lead to a more dynamic and competitive landscape for our great game to thrive in Asia.”

Leading the continent’s charge in numbers, more than 40,000 participants are expected to take part in activities planned by the All India Football Federation. Another 30,000 enthusiasts are expected to ignite their passion for football in China PR where the Chinese Football Association has organised a series of events and competitions for women and girls, youngsters and children, including football activities for the visually impaired.

The Syrian Football Association and Federação Futebol Timor-Leste will be joining the Asian football family’s Grassroots Day for the first time this year, with the West Asians engaging with children from an orphanage in Damascus. Timor-Leste, meanwhile, will be organising a youth football festival for both boys and girls from ages nine to fourteen.

The grassroots football movement has continued to break new ground in recent times particularly with the AFC Grassroots Charter, which was recently approved by the AFC Executive Committee. The game-changing charter, which will play an invaluable role in raising the quality of grassroots programmes throughout the continent, will be shared with the Member Associations in the coming months.

Photos: Myanmar Football Federation & All India Football Federation