By Samindra Kunti
February 5 – Saudi Arabia has announced it has entered the bidding to stage the 2027 Asian Cup. The blue riband Asian Football Confederation (AFC) event for national men’s teams was successfully expanded to 24 teams for the UAE hosting last year. In 2023 it will be hosted in China.
The AFC opened the bidding process for the 2027 continental finals last December with the intention of appointing a host nation as soon as possible to allow for enough preparation time. AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa emphasised that host countries should be given more time to organise and where necessary build infrastructure.
The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) confirmed it had officially submitted its bid, with the backing of the kingdom’s powerful General Sports Authority.
“We have a rich record and great legacy of the Asian achievements of teams and clubs, as this artistic heritage will be completed by hosting the biggest championship in the continent” said SAFF president Yasser Al-Mesihal. “We hope to present the bright reality of Saudi Arabia in hosting, with the unlimited support of our wise leadership, to continue the journey of hosting many international events in various fields in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
In its bid, SAFF has highlighted the international sporting events that Saudi Arabia has recently hosted, including Formula E races, European Tour golf tournaments and boxing’s world heavyweight title rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr.
Internationally, those events have come under criticism with the Kingdom accused of ‘sportswashing’ to cover up its poor human rights record, restrictive regulation concerning women and their role in society and sports, and the accusations of housing the BeoutQ piracy operation that has been stealing the IP of sports events worldwide on an industrial scale.
The AFC’s 30-member executive committee will decide the 2027 Asian Cup hosts in 2021. With China – from the AFC’s East region – hosting in 2023, the case for a return to Asia’s West four years later is strong.
Saudi Arabia has become the first country to formally confirm its bid for the tournament. The Saudi have won the Asian Cup three times, but have never staged the tournament. Uzbekistan, Iraq and India have all been mooted as potential bidders for the 2027 edition.
On the eve of the last FIFA Congress, All India Football Federation president Praful Patel told Insideworldfootball that India has the ambition to stage the 2027 iteration of the Asian Cup. “India is moving step by step up the ladder,” said Patel, who was elected a member of the FIFA Council in April. “We hosted the U-17 men’s World Cup and now the U-17 World Cup for girls next year. We hope to also bid for the U-20 World Cup in 2021 and after China we will be hoping to bid for the Asian Cup in 2027.” India has so far not submitted a bid to host.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1582496737labto1582496737ofdlr1582496737owedi1582496737sni@t1582496737catno1582496737c1582496737