By Paul Nicholson in Paris
June 4 – China were officially awarded the hosting rights for the AFC Asian Cup 2023 at the AFC Extraordinary Congress in Paris today, promising AFC member nations “that we will not let you down”.
Initially China had been up against India, Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand for the hosting rights. The South Koreans were the last to drop out after India had withdrawn saying that they were interested in hosting 2027, but focusing on their bid to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Presenting the bid, Chinese FA executive committee member Lin Xiaohua (pictured) said: “After 19 years (China last hosted in 2004) we want to affirm our full commitment to Asian football by bringing the Asian Cup back to China.
“As the world’s most populous nation, our vision is to take the Asian Cup to more places, more people (create) more media exposure and more excitement…we will build a lasting legacy and make football the number one sport in our continent.”
Lin emphasised the strong support that the biod had at all level of the Chinese government and the commitment the country has made to Asian football having hosted 20 AFC youth tournaments over the past 10 years.
At the centre of the Chinese plan for the Asian Cup in 2023 is the build of six new football-specific stadia that will be complete by 2021. The Chinese have put forward 12 candidate cities as potential host venues including: Beijing, Dalian, Nanjing, Xi’an, Chengdu, Qingdao, Changsha, Guangzhou and Wuhan.
Lin empahasised China’s political stability, strong economy and “social harmony” saying that its “56 ethnic groups had co-existed peacefully for thousands of years”.
There is a strong sense that the 2023 Asian Cup is not just a stepping stone in building China’s global football credentials as a playing nation but that their eyes are still on the prize of hosting a FIFA World Cup, with a growing expectation they will bid for 2030 whenever FIFA release the criteria for the bidding for that event.
China is the perfect place for “mega international sports events” said Lin.