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Reopening in doubt as China pull out of 2023 AFC Asian Cup host

The quadrennial tournament, which features 24 mainland teams, was scheduled to take place in 10 Chinese cities in June and July next year.

“The AFC recognizes the exceptional circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which led China to waive its hosting rights,” the confederation said in a statement on Saturday, adding that the decision was “difficult but necessary. “.

China’s Covid approach – using broadly closed borders, instant lockdowns, mass testing and quarantine – seemed incompatible with hosting a large-scale sporting event with thousands of foreign visitors.

Confirming its decision to pull out on Saturday, China’s Asian Cup organizing committee said Covid difficulties meant it “cannot commit to hosting the Asian Cup competition at this time.” Asia next year according to a completely open model”.

The tournament was supposed to feature a new football stadium in Shanghai – the city at the epicenter of the country’s current outbreak which has been in lockdown for seven weeks. Throughout April, residents stuck at home in the financial capital said they had no access to food, medicine or other essential supplies.

In recent days, complaints have surfaced on social media about community workers breaking into people’s homes without permission and damaging their belongings during disinfection. Viral video showed residents arguing with police trying to get them out of their homes; it is unclear under what policy the residents were forcibly evicted, or where they were sent.

At least 31 Chinese cities are now under full or partial lockdown, affecting up to 182 million people, according to CNN calculations.

China’s withdrawal brings an additional sting, given that authorities have spent years – and tens of millions of dollars – trying to bolster its soccer program. It became a national priority after the embarrassment of 2002 – the only time China qualified for the FIFA World Cup but the team failed to score a single goal.

In 2016, China unveiled a plan to transform the country into a “global soccer powerhouse”, with ambitious goals including the creation of 20,000 soccer schools and 70,000 pitches.

The AFC said a new host for the tournament would be revealed in due course.

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