China withdraws as 2023 football Asian Cup host due to pandemic

China withdraws as 2023 football Asian Cup host due to pandemic
A woman walks in front of a building with a billboard promoting the 2023 Asian Cup in Beijing on May 14, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — China has withdrawn as the 2023 Asian Cup host due to the coronavirus, football officials said Saturday, with Beijing’s strict zero-COVID strategy dealing another blow to the country’s sporting ambitions.اضافة اعلان

Authorities in China are pursuing a strategy of stamping out the virus entirely, which includes rapid lockdowns and mass testing, and millions in Shanghai have faced onerous restrictions for more than a month.

But the measures — now rare globally, as most countries shift to living with COVID — have made hosting sporting events a major challenge.

The Olympic-sized Asian Games, due to be staged in September in Hangzhou, had already been postponed last week, and on Saturday the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said China would not host the Asian Cup.

Chinese football officials had informed the governing body that they would not be able to host the 24-team competition, which was to be staged in 10 cities in June and July next year.

No new host nation was named, with the AFC saying that next steps related to the tournament would be announced in due course.

“The AFC acknowledges the exceptional circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to the relinquishment by (China) of its hosting rights,” the governing body said in a statement.

Those involved in organizing the tournament had made “this very difficult but necessary decision in the collective interests of” the tournament, it added.

The Asian Cup is staged every four years. Qatar won the last edition in 2019.

It would have been the second time that China had staged the Asian Cup. They hosted it in 2004, when they lost 3–1 to Japan in the final.

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