On December 3, 2019, the AFC announced the start of the process of selecting the host of the 2027 Asian Cup. Federations interested in hosting the tournament had until March 31, 2020 to submit their candidacies, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a deadline that has been postponed several times. Several years later, we know both the country and the stadiums that will host the tournament.
Five countries entered the race: India, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan. On December 16, 2020, the last-mentioned country withdrew its candidacy and four nations remained in the competition. The selection was intended to be made in November 2021, but was later postponed to 2022 and then to early 2023. The selection period coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, due to which, in May 2022, China resigned from hosting the 2023 Asian Cup. In their replacement, Qatar became the host of the tournament, which was announced on October 17, 2022. As a result, Qatar was no longer a candidate to host the 2027 Asian Cup.
Only India and Saudi Arabia remained in contention, as Iran withdrew from the race on October 13. On December 5, 2022, India also withdrew its candidacy, leaving Saudi Arabia as the only candidate. Although Saudi Arabia has never held the Asian Cup, it has already hosted tournaments such as the Confederations Cup, the Youth World Cup, the Arab Nations Cup and the Gulf Cup.
Is Arabia ready for a football feast?
The 2027 Asian Cup will be the 19th edition of the Asian football championship competition. The tournament will be the third in a row with a record number of 24 participants. Saudi Arabia has never hosted the Asian Cup before, although the event has already been hosted by countries from the region - like Qatar, which has had the opportunity to host Asia's best teams three times. Saudi Arabia's footballers have triumphed in the competition three times. The country's national team is among the strongest and most successful on the continent. Saudi Arabia has taken the organization of the Asian Cup quite seriously. It should be remembered that this event is not as popular as, for example, the EURO, and during the matches of this tournament one often sees empty stands.
Interestingly, only three of the eight stadiums submitted are venues that already exist: the impressive 60,000-seater from Jeddah, the recently extensively expanded Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium and the King Saud University Stadium from Riyadh, commissioned eight years ago. Other stadiums are to either be built from scratch, such as Dammam Stadium, Qiddiya Stadium and Riyadh Stadium, or be extensively rebuilt - these include King Fahd International Stadium and Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium. Also, the two stadiums reported as reserve stadiums are venues to undergo major reconstruction (Prince Mohammed bin Fahad Stadium and Prince Saud bin Jalawi Stadium).
Saudi Arabia has unveiled quite an ambitious project and it looks like the tournament will be held at interesting, modern arenas. However, the country still lacks new stadiums. From the "bid book" prepared by the organizers, one can learn that many fresh designs were made by the award-winning Populous studio. Such an ambitious approach was certainly influenced by the example of neighboring Qatar, which held the World Cup and built many modern stadiums in the process.