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China cites pandemic, withdraws as Asian Cup host

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA (AP) – China withdrew as host of football’s 2023 Asian Cup yesterday in the latest cancellation of the country’s sports hosting duties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) praised Chinese football officials for “this very difficult but necessary decision in the collective interests of the AFC Asian Cup”.

The 24-nation tournament was due to be played in 10 cities in mostly newly built stadiums in June and July of next year.

China’s withdrawal could let Qatar or Saudi Arabia step up as hosts while both are bidding in a contest to host the 2027 edition. India and Iran are also candidates for 2027 with a decision expected next year.

China was due to host the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou last September but that was postponed along with nearly all international sports events in the country.

A man cycles past the construction site of the Workers’ Stadium, a planned venue of the 2023 Asian Cup, in Beijing. PHOTO: AFP