Japan pull out of WWC 2023 hosting leaving Aus-NZ and Colombia bids in shoot-out

By Paul Nicholson

June 22 – Japan have withdrawn their bid to host the Women’s World Cup 2023 leaving just two bids still in contention for the blue riband women’s event, with the joint Australia-New Zealand bid being the clear favourite against the submission from Colombia.

In a statement, Tashima Kohzo, president of Japan Football Association and chairperson of the Japan Bid Committee, said that they will now work to support the remaining Asian bid (Aus-NZ).

The FIFA Council will vote on the hosts for 2023 this Friday.. FIFA’s bid inspectors rated the joint applicants 4.1 out of five in their inspection report, Japan was adjudged worthy of a 3.9 score but Colombia only scored 2.8.

“Now, we can show the solidarity of Asian Football Family, to lead to a successful bid. Japan will cooperate with FIFA and the host nation(s) to ensure women’s football in the world continues to advance, expand and ascend to a higher level,” said Khozo.

AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, declared his support for the Australia-New Zealand bid, saying: “Not only is this a historic cross-Confederation bid, with our close friends and neighbours from Oceania, but most importantly, this is the most technically impressive of the bids that the Council must choose from on June 25 and we must be guided by the experts.

“The FIFA Evaluation report could not have been clearer on the outstanding sporting infrastructure that will allow the players to perform at their optimum level and are in keeping with the ever-growing profile of this world-class competition.”

That inspector’s report last week sparked a row with the Colombian FA chief Ramon Jesurun, and Conmebol President Alejandro Dominguez writing jointly to FIFA complaining of “erroneous and discriminatory conclusions” in rating the South American country’s bid to host the tournament. South America has never hosted the women’s tournament.

“In the document, FIFA’s administration draws some erroneous and discriminatory conclusions on three aspects of vital importance for the score of our candidacy,” read the letter which also took exception to references to terrorism.

“Colombia today lives in a time of stability and social peace, fruits of the efforts and maturity of its people,” the letter. It said that FIFA’s evaluation panel were guilty of “ignorance in relation to Colombia’s situation, and a lack of interest in carrying out, at least, minimal research of the situation in which this country finds itself currently.”

Even so, it will be hard for the FIFA Council to vote for Colombia in light of the overwhelming score in favour of Australia-New Zealand.

“The report also praises the general infrastructure in the two extremely well-connected and modern countries as well as the ‘commercially favourable proposition’ of the bid which has the financial and public commitment of the Governments of both countries – and we thank both Prime Ministers for their continued support,” said Salman.

“Add to this, the unique nature of the cross-Confederation bid, the fact that this is the first time the Southern Hemisphere will have hosted the tournament and the benefits for the development of the women’s game in Asia-Pacific that this united bid would unlock, then the proposition looks to be the only available choice.”

Salaman acknowledged Japan and the role the Japanese have played in the development of football in the Asian region. Japan could have split the vote for an Asian 2023 hosting.

Japan first declared its ambition to host a Women’s World Cup in 2007 and has been one of the world’s leading nations in supporting and developing the women’s game. It is the only nation to have won the (women’s) World Cup at every age level. Pulling out the 2023 bid was a decision not taken lightly.

“We have felt in our own hearts the impact the Women’s World Cup can have on individuals and society as a whole. As a result of JFA’s ceaseless efforts to empower people through our social activities, we also know the power of football to influence society,” said Khozo.

Japan is still hosting the Olympic women’s tournament, until the recent success of the WWC the premium tournament for women. Japan has also just announced the launch of a women’s professional league and has long participated in supplying coaches to Asian countries and grassroots events to develop the women’s game.

Pointing to the devastating effect of the pandemic on world football, Khozo said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world and also the whole football family hard. We will continue to support the severely affected football clubs financially and work together with all stakeholders to bring back the world where we can safely enjoy the game we all love.”

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