The excitement of the World Cup is still ahead of us, and already next year Qatar will stage another major football event. After China dropped out of hosting the tournament due to its pandemic control policy, the rights to host the Asian championship were awarded to the defending champions from 2019.
In May this year, China announced that it would not be able to host the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. Although preparations were in the final stages, the authorities of the Middle Kingdom decided to relinquish the rights to host the continent's best footballers, explaining their strategy to ruthlessly combat the coronavirus pandemic. (We wrote more about the whole affair here). The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) was therefore forced to quickly find a replacement host.
There were three candidates to take over the tournament. In addition to Qatar, Indonesia and South Korea were also competing for the rights to host the event. All countries have very modern stadium infrastructures. However, time was of the essence. There was not much time left, which is why it was decided to choose a country from the Arabian Peninsula. With the World Cup starting in less than three weeks' time, everything needed to organise a major football tournament is already in place there.
Given the short lead time in preparation, we know that the hard work begins immediately but with their existing world-class infrastructure and unrivalled hosting capabilities, we are confident that Qatar will stage a worthy spectacle befitting the prestige and stature of Asia’s crown jewel - said Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, head of the AFC, in a press statement.
This will be the third occasion for the Persian Gulf country to host the Asian Cup. The event was previously held in Qatar in 1988 and 2011. We should add that the 'Maroons' will be defending the title won in 2019 in the United Arab Emirates. First, however, the Qataris have a much bigger challenge ahead of them, as the World Cup is nearing and the whole world will be closely watching the first competition of this rank in the Middle East.
The awarding of the tournament to the country has stirred up controversy. Accusations of corruption have been levelled at FIFA, with its officials alleged to have taken bribes in exchange for votes in favour of Russia and Qatar's candidatures. In addition, the championship had to be moved to the autumn for climatic reasons, forcing a complete reorganisation of domestic leagues' schedules. Above all, there are widespread human rights violations in this Arab country, and many workers have died during the construction of the stadiums. FIFA, however, has consistently denied all allegations and does not seem to notice the irregularities.
As yet, we do not know when exactly next year's Asian Cup will take place, but Reuters reported that the Qatar Football Association will propose moving the competition from June and July 2023 to January 2024 for the same climatic reasons that forced the shifting of the World Cup. It has also not been stated which venues will host the cup. Let's remember that after the World Cup, the capacity of most stadiums will be reduced, such as the arena of the final, Lusail Stadium. Stadium 974, on the other hand, will be demolished.
The AFC has also announced that India and Saudi Arabia remain in contention to host the 2027 Asian Cup. A final decision will be made in February next year. South Korea was once again left with disappointment after last month's AFC Executive Committee meeting, having last hosted the Asian Cup in a distant 1960! Indonesia hosted the tournament in 2007 together with Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. As a consolation prize, they are left to host next year's Under-20 World Cup.
In the meantime we encourage you to take a look at our fresh video featuring TOP 10 stadiums in Indonesia: