China will no longer host the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Asian Cup 2023, a key date on Asia’s soccer calendar.
A statement on the official AFC Asian Cup 2023 website said that a new host nation had not yet been decided.
It also acknowledged the “exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” and that “several milestones were achieved, including the launch of the tournament logo and the unveiling of the newly completed Shanghai Pudong Football Stadium last year.”
China has continued to pursue ‘dynamic zero-COVID’ which seeks to eliminate the spread of the virus rather than ‘live with it.’
Host cities of tournament matches were due to include Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Dalian, Qingdao, Xiamen and Suzhou. The Chinese capital was due to host the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the final of the competition in the new Workers' Stadium.
Assuming China is still pursuing ‘dynamic zero-COVID’ at the time of the competition in 2023, it is plausible that a ‘closed-loop’ for competitors, coaches and certain other personnel would have been implemented – likely similar to that implemented during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in February and March, 2022.
Implementing a ‘closed-loop’ environment in several cities spread out over different areas of China would likely have been a significant logistical challenge, but we can only speculate on that.
‘Zero-COVID’ has meant that a number of other international sporting events in China have been either cancelled or postponed such as the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games (postponed), Chengdu 2021 FISU World University Games (postponed) and the Asian Youth Games scheduled to take place in Shantou, Guangdong province (cancelled).
READ MORE: Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games Postponed
China has hosted the AFC Asian Cup once before, back in 2004. The first AFC Asian Cup was held in Hong Kong in 1956, before the territory’s hand over back to China.
China has never won the competition, though they have seen some success, having finished as runners-up in 1984 and 2004.
When it comes to soccer in China, a lot of recent attention has been focused upon the difference between the country’s men’s and women’s teams. The former failed to qualify for the Qatar 2022 World Cup after having lost their final group qualifier game to Oman.
Meanwhile, the latter became champions of the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in India after beating South Korea 3-2 in the final of the competition. The victory sparked a debate about equal pay between the two teams.
Despite the competition no longer taking place in China, there’s no reason it can’t still attract the attention of avid soccer fans. Moreover, it may give some indication of Asian nations’ chances for the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
[Cover image via Weibo/@新浪体育视频]