February 12 – The Asian Cup closed on Saturday night with a crowd of 86,492 in the Lusail Stadium watching Qatar beat Jordan 3-1. The tournament had opened on January 10 with a record 82,490 people in Lusail watching Qatar beat Lebanon.
It has been a victorious month for the Qataris. The team extended their winning run to 14 matches, beating the previous record of Iran’s 13-match winning streak. Qatar equalled it by beating Iran in a tumultuous semi-final.
Across the 51 games and the nine stadia a total of 1,509,496 people attended the finals, smashing the previous attendance record from China in 2004 of 1.04 million.
The tournament used seven stadia that were build for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, achieving an average capacity of 73% – a 13% increase on China in 2004.
The tournament was originally scheduled to be held in China in the summer of 2023 but after the Chinese pulled out the hosting was retendered and awarded to Qatar, but with a date shift to January/February 2024.
It has proved to be a big success for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), building on the first 24-team edition of 2019 in the UAE pretty much across every metric of hosting measurement.
AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has congratulated Qatar on both winning and their hosting of the tournament.
“On behalf of the AFC, I would like to extend our wholehearted congratulations to Qatar on defending their Asian title and showcasing exceptional tenacity, consistency and quality over the last 30 days…I am certain that the performances of both teams will serve to inspire the future generation of players, not only in their respective nations, but also across our great Continent.”
“From the FIFA World Cup venues, the world-class infrastructure, the seamless connectivity, the absorbing atmosphere all across the city of Doha, and unrivalled hospitality from the people of Qatar, the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 was unlike anything we have ever experienced or witnessed in the tournament’s proud history.
“On behalf of the Asian football family, I would like to convey a big heartfelt thank you to the Qatar Football Association, the Local Organising Committee and the Qatari authorities for their exceptional hosting capabilities and for delivering a tournament that will go down as the greatest ever Asian football masterpiece,” continued Shaikh Salman. For 2027 the tournament moves to Saudi Arabia who will want to similarly match the success of their neighbours.
Part of the success has been the huge increase in digital engagement figures with the AFC reporting that preliminary digital impressions have crossed the 5.5 billion mark, with broadcast figures similarly smashing previous TV viewership records.
Those numbers were helped by the product on the field and an increased internationalisation of teams. There were 114 players at the finals who play their club football in Europe.
Jordan were the ultimate underdog story having come third in their group and making it all the way to the final. Palestine gathered the emotional support of a continent and the rest of the world with their brave performances, while debutants Takijistan made it to the last 16, as did Indonesia, their first appearance in the knock out rounds.
Japan and South Korea, with all their European stars will wonder how it all went wrong, while Iran will know this was probably the last chance of continental glory for this current generation of players and will see it as a massive opportunity missed.
Ultimately the biggest winner was football in Asia, though Qatar will take all the plaudits and trophies.
Shaikh Salman concluded: “Ultimately, the biggest victors were the entire Asian football family and our Member Associations, in particular, deserve our praise for their commitment to rise to the occasion and to produce the unrivalled moments that once again reinforced the rising standards of the Asian game… in no uncertain terms, the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 is undoubtedly our crowning moment.”
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