AFC seeks to unlock Chinese potential with 2023 Asian Cup award

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has today (Tuesday) confirmed that China will host the Asian Cup in 2023, stating that the award will provide the opportunity to “unlock the potential” that exists for the sport in the country.

The award of the AFC’s crown jewel event was made at the Confederation’s extraordinary congress in Paris, France, with China having been lined up to land the tournament following developments in the bidding race last month.

China appeared poised to land hosting rights to the 2023 Asian Cup after the Korean Football Association (KFA) withdrew its bid for the national team tournament in favour of focusing on its proposed joint proposal with North Korea for the Fifa Women’s World Cup in the same year. The decision made China the sole remaining bidder for 2023 after Thailand withdrew from the race in July 2017. Indonesia had exited the process at an earlier stage.

Today’s decision marks the second time the Asian Cup will be held in China after the 2004 tournament, when the event was expanded to 16 teams for the first time. Since then, Asia’s flagship national team competition has grown to 24 teams with the United Arab Emirates staging the biggest-ever edition earlier this year.

Shaikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the AFC president, said today: “This is an important moment for football in Asia and beyond. Football now has a chance to unlock the potential that exists in the world’s most populous country.

“We have seen the rise of the game under the direction and investment of the Chinese government. Now we have the chance, with this Asian Cup, to develop a true legacy for the global game. Hosting the AFC Asian Cup will provide China PR with great facilities and infrastructure to stage football tournaments.

“It will provide inspiration for tens of millions of children. The Asian Cup can provide a launch pad for the great Chinese football teams of the future. And more importantly can place football as the number one sport in the country.”

As part of the country’s long-term ambitions, China PR have proposed building new football specific stadiums in nine of the planned 12 host cities. The bid also comprised the inclusion of one back-up existing stadium in each host city – all of which meet the latest international competition requirements set by the AFC.

China’s bid plan envisions 12 host cities, with one stadium in each. The AFC’s bidding requirements called for a minimum of seven stadia. The 12 host cities proposed by the Chinese Football Association (CFA) are: Beijing, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Suzhou, Tianjin, Wuhan and Xi’an.

Based on the current list of proposed facilities, new constructions will be delivered by December 2021, which is part of the Overall Plan for Chinese Football Reform and Development issued by the Chinese government in March 2015. All related costs therefore are budgeted for by the municipal governments.

According to the bid plan, Beijing’s National Stadium, Tianjin Olympic Centre Stadium, Hangzhou Olympic Sports Expo Centre Main Stadium, Helong Sports Centre Stadium in Changsha and Guangzhou Tianhe Sports Centre Stadium will receive minor renovation work.

Under construction are: Shanghai Pudong Football Stadium, Chongqing Liangjiang Football Match Centre Stadium, Dalian Professional Football Stadium, Wuhan Tazi Lake Football Stadium, Chengdu Fenghuangshan Sports Centre Professional Football Stadium, Shaanxi Province Stadium and Kunshan Sports Centre.

Shanghai Pudong Football Stadium has been lined up to host the final and one semi-final, with the other semi-final being staged at Beijing’s National Stadium.

The AFC added that it hopes the staging of the 2023 Asian Cup in China PR will mark the growth of commercial rights in a new era where DDMC Fortis are the AFC’s exclusive commercial representatives.