KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia ( Associated Press) — China has pulled out of hosting the 2023 Asian Cup soccer tournament, the country’s third cancellation as a sports venue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Asian Football Confederation praised the Chinese football authority for taking “this very difficult but necessary decision for the collective interests of the CAF Asian Cup.”
The 24-nation tournament was due to be played in 10 cities and new stadiums in June and July next year.
The host could go to Qatar or Saudi Arabia, both contenders for the 2027 host. India and Iran are also contenders for 2027, with a decision expected early next year.
Qatar has four stadiums to host the 2022 World Cup, which will start in November. But the Asian Cup would be unlikely to start there in June due to the extreme heat of the Qatari summer, making it more likely to be pushed back to early 2024.
The Asian Cup is played every four years, traditionally in January and February. It was held in January in Qatar in 2011 and in Australia in 2015. The 2019 cup was played from January 5 to February 1 in the United Arab Emirates.
Qatar upset Japan 3-1 in the 2019 final for their first major tournament title.
China was to host the Asian Games in Hangzhou in September, but it was postponed along with almost all international sporting events in the country. China did hold the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, but imposed a strict quarantine on athletes and authorities and with little public attendance.