China pulls out of 2023 Asian Cup hosts citing pandemic

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — China on Saturday withdrew from hosting the 2023 Asian Cup, the country’s most recently cancelled hosting duty for the sporting event amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AFC praised Chinese football officials for “taking this very difficult but necessary decision in the collective interest of the AFC Asian Cup”.

The 24-nation tournament was due to take place in June and July next year at most of the new stadiums in 10 cities.

China’s withdrawal could leave Qatar or Saudi Arabia as hosts, both of which are bidding to host in 2027. India and Iran are also candidates for the 2027 edition, with a decision expected early next year.

Qatar has stadiums to host the World Cup, which opens in November 2022. However, the Asian Cup is unlikely to start in June 2023 due to the scorching summer in Qatar, making early 2024 a better option.

The quadrennial Asian Cup is traditionally held in January and February. Qatar (2011) and Australia (2015) hosted matches in January, while the 2019 event in the United Arab Emirates took place from 5 January to 1 February.

Qatar became the defending champions by beating Japan 3-1 in the 2019 final to win the country’s first major football title.

China was originally scheduled to host the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou in September, but that has been postponed as almost all international sporting events in the country have been postponed. China did host the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, but with a strict lockdown on athletes and officials, few fans were able to attend.

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