The event, which is played every four years and features 24 national teams from across the continent, was due to be held in 10 cities from June 16 to July 16 in 2023.
China will not host the AFC Asian Cup final round next year in view of the surging COVID-19 cases in the country, the Asian Football Confederation announced on Saturday. The event, which is played every four years and features 24 national teams from across the continent, was due to be held in 10 cities from June 16 to July 16 in 2023. China were named as hosts of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in June 2019, at the AFC Extraordinary congress in Paris.
“Following extensive discussions with the Chinese Football Association (CFA), the Asian Football Confederation has been officially informed by the CFA that it would not be able to host the AFC Asian Cup 2023,” the confederation said in a statement. “The AFC acknowledges the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the relinquishment by China PR of its hosting rights.”
The AFC said a decision about hosting of the tournament would be revealed in due course. The Asian Cup is the latest international event to be affected by China’s attempts to tackle the pandemic. Earlier this month, Asian Games organisers the Olympic Council of Asia postponed the next edition of the multi-sport event, due to be held in the Chinese city of Hangzhou in September, until 2023. Since the start of the pandemic, the Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix has not been held since 2019, while WTA events have been suspended due to standoff over concerns relating to the safety of Chinese player Peng Shuai.
China continues to implement a zero-COVID policy and cities across the country have faced tight restrictions as a result of a recent outbreak of the Omicron variant. Shanghai has been under lockdown for more than a month while other cities, including the capital Beijing, are facing a wave of additional curbs, frequent testing and targeted lockdowns.
The Indian football team has been attending a training camp since April 23, first in Bellary, and now in Kolkata as part of preparation for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup third round qualifiers in June. The Blue Tigers are scheduled to play a series of friendlies against a combined All-Star XI from the I-League, and another against the West Bengal Santosh Trophy squad. The team already played a friendly against ATK Mohun Bagan on May 11. The Indian team lost that match 2-1, despite a goal from skipper Sunil Chhetri, who returned to the national team for the first time after seven months due to an injury-layoff.