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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Korea among four countries to express interest in hosting Asian Cup

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Son Heung-min cheers after Korea beat Egypt 4-1 in a friendly at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Mapo District, western Seoul on June 14. [NEWS1]
Son Heung-min cheers after Korea beat Egypt 4-1 in a friendly at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Mapo District, western Seoul on June 14. [NEWS1]

Korea is one of four countries to express an interest in hosting the AFC Asian Cup 2023, the Asian Football Confederation announced Monday, with Australia, Indonesia, and Qatar also looking to bid to be the new home of the continental football tournament.
The Korea Football Association in June said that it was fielding applications for cities and stadiums interested in hosting Asian Cup matches, and planned to enter a bid before the June 30 deadline set by the AFC.
China, the original host of the 2023 Asian Cup, withdrew last month due to the country’s Zero-Covid policy.

The AFC in June called for interested parties to bid to take over as host for the tournament, which is scheduled to run from 16 June to 16 July next year. That schedule could change, however, especially if a hotter country from west Asia wins the bid.

Australia’s expression of interest doesn’t come as a surprise, as the country has the infrastructure in place after hosting the tournament in 2015. But hosting the tournament in Australia may require a change in dates, as the country is already scheduled to host the 2023 Australia-New Zealand Women’s World Cup, starting four days after the Asian Cup ends on July 20.

Qatar also has the infrastructure in place with the 2022 World Cup set to take place in the Middle Eastern country in December this year. Qatar has also hosted multiple Club World Cups and the IAAF World Championships in recent years, so its stadiums are tried and tested and should be up to date.

Like the World Cup, however, an Asian Cup held in Qatar would presumably need to be held in the winter, when temperatures are slightly more bearable. That level of disruption this close to the tournament may be too much for the AFC to consider, especially because it would force the tournament to be held in the middle of the European league seasons.

Indonesia, the host of the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, also has the infrastructure in place, but is due to host the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup from May 20 to June 11 next year, leaving the Southeast Asian country with the same double booking problem that Australia faces.

Korea, on the other hand, still benefits from the infrastructure prepared for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Those stadiums have been tested regularly, with multiple EAFF E-1 Football Championships, the 2014 Asian Games, and the 2017 U-20 World Cup. 

Korea is also not currently scheduled to host a major football tournament next year and has less extreme weather in June.

Korea, Australia, Indonesia, and Qatar now have until Aug. 31 to compile and submit the formal bidding documents, with the AFC Executive Committee set to announce its choice on Oct. 17.

BY JIM BULLEY [jim.bulley@joongang.co.kr]