China waives hosting rights for 2023 Asian Cup due to COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: The Chinese national flag is seen in Beijing, China April 29, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

HONG KONG — China has withdrawn its right to host the 2023 Asian Cup final due to the COVID-19 situation in the country, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced on Saturday.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 next year.

“Following extensive discussions with the Chinese Football Association (CFA), the Asian Football Confederation has been officially informed by the CFA that it will not be able to host the AFC Asian Cup. 2023,” the confederation said in a statement.

“The AFC recognizes the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to China PR’s relinquishment of its hosting rights.”

The AFC said a decision on hosting the tournament would be revealed in due course.

The Asian Cup is the latest international sporting event to be affected by China’s attempts to fight the pandemic.

Earlier this month, the organizers of the Asian Games, the Olympic Council of Asia, postponed the next edition of the multi-sport event, which was due to be held in the Chinese city of Hangzhou in September, until 2023.

China continues to implement a zero COVID policy and cities across the country have faced strict restrictions following a recent outbreak of the Omicron variant.

Shanghai has been in lockdown for more than a month while other cities, including the capital Beijing, face a wave of additional restrictions, frequent testing and targeted lockdowns.

Most international sporting events in China have been postponed or canceled since the start of the pandemic, with the notable exception of the Winter Olympics, which took place in Beijing under strict health controls in February.

The Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix has not taken place since 2019, while WTA events have been suspended due to an impasse over Chinese player Peng Shuai’s safety concerns.

China is set to host four ATP events this year, including the Shanghai Masters and the China Open in October.

The Chinese Super League has yet to announce the start of the new football season.

The Chinese Football Association has also given up organizing the East Asian championships in July, with this tournament now taking place in Japan.

China was to host the Asian Cup for the first time since 2004, when the national team lost in the final at the Beijing Workers’ Stadium to Japan.

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