0953 GMT July 06, 2022
China’s decision to withdraw from hosting the 2023 AFC Asian Cup has left the already-postponed Hangzhou Asian Games hanging in the balance.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced on Saturday that China has pulled out of hosting the 24-team tournament – set to be held in June and July next year – amid “exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the relinquishment by China of its hosting rights.”
The Asian football governing body praised Chinese officials for making “this very difficult but necessary decision in the collective interests of the AFC Asian Cup.”
The news came days after the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) had said that the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games – scheduled for the upcoming September – have been postponed by a year with the new dates to be announced in due course.
However, the AFC announcement has now hinted that the Asian Games might even be called off.
The Asian Cup would be held in a much smaller scale, in comparison with the Asian Games – the second-largest multi-sport event in the world.
“China managed to keep some 5,000 participants in a bio-secure bubble during [last February’s] Winter Olympics, but the figure would have been around 25,000 for the Asian Games, which would make it much more difficult for the country to hold the event,” Peyman Fakhri, Iranian chef de mission at the Games, told ISNA.
Fakhri had first cast doubts on the future the Games last week by saying that holding the Games in the summer of next year will interrupt a hectic schedule for the Paris 2024 Olympics qualification tournaments.
Asian Cup host
The AFC, meanwhile, said that a new host for the Asian Cup will be announced in the near future.
Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported on Sunday that the AFC would still favor Far East Asian countries, namely Japan and South Korea, for hosting the competition, given the Middle East’s hot and humid weather in months of June and July.
However, the Saudi paper added that Qatar could also be considered as a candidate as the country enjoys numerous stadiums with state-of-the-art cooling systems.
Qatar, alongside Iran, India, and Saudi Arabia, are bidding in a contest to host the 2027 edition, with an AFC decision expected early next year.