MUMBAI (Reuters) - Beijing and Shanghai are among 10 Chinese cities that will host the Asian Cup finals in 2023, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said on Saturday.
China’s desire to showcase its ability as a future World Cup host got a boost when its football association (CFA) was awarded the rights to host the quadrennial tournament at an extraordinary AFC congress in Paris in June.
China, which will host the tournament for the second time after 2004, had been one of four nations to initially bid to host the 24-team competition with South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand also submitting bids before pulling out.
Tianjin, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Dalian, Qingdao, Xiamen and Suzhou will be the other host cities for the 18th edition of the continent’s premier competition that will be held in June and July, 2023.
“The AFC Asian Cup is our flagship competition for national teams, and I am sure that the Chinese FA and the selected host cities will deliver a tournament which is in keeping with the event’s world-class status,” AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said in a statement.
“The AFC thanks the commitment shown by the CFA and these 10 great cities to be a part of this celebration of Asian football. I wish them all the very best of success in their desire to show the world that China PR can stage huge international football events.”
The tournament will give China the opportunity to showcase its ability to host a major football event and comes several years after President Xi Jinping declared his desire to see the country eventually host the World Cup finals.
As a result, investment in the sport in China has skyrocketed in the six years since Xi - a well-known football fan - came to power, although the fortunes of the national team lag behind the leading nations in Asia.
China have only qualified for the World Cup once, in 2002, and have never won the Asian Cup, last reaching the final on home soil in 2004. They were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the 2019 Asian Cup by Iran in January.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Robert Birsel