SEOUL– South Korea has fallen short in its bid to host Asia’s top football tournament next year.
The Korea Football Association (KFA) said Monday that Qatar was selected as the host of the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup over South Korea and Indonesia, relaying a decision reached at the AFC Executive Committee meeting in Malaysia earlier in the day.
South Korea has only hosted one Asian Cup — the second edition of the quadrennial event in 1960. It was also the last time the country won the continental competition.
China had been the original host of the 2023 tournament but it withdrew in May this year, citing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
South Korea jumped into the race in June and claimed that East Asia was due to host the AFC’s signature event, with the previous tournament in 2019 having taken place in the United Arab Emirates.
Instead, Qatar, which will stage this year’s FIFA World Cup, will be the first three-time host of the Asian Cup. Qatar earlier held the Asian Cup in 1988 and 2011.
In a statement, the KFA said Qatar’s strong bid package caught South Korea by surprise and that it couldn’t quite match its rival’s financial resources.
“Even though we are a powerhouse in Asian football, we haven’t had the Asian Cup for 63 years, and we felt that it was a logical thing to bring the Asian Cup to East Asia to ensure more regional balance,” the statement read. “We thought we had put together a strong bid, based on stadiums, transportation, accommodations and our people’s passion for the sport. But we had a tough battle against Qatar, with their abundant financial, human and material resources.”
The KFA noted Qatar had pledged substantial financial backing for the AFC, which has been dealing with some difficulties in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, by way of corporate sponsorship and broadcasting rights fees. Qatar’s plan to use new stadiums built for the 2022 World Cup for the Asian tournament also worked in the country’s favor, the KFA said.
“We believe Middle Eastern countries’ aggressive attempt to grab control of Asian football has influenced this decision,” the KFA claimed. “Saudi Arabia, which hopes to hold the 2027 Asian Cup, also pledged financial support for the AFC if a Middle Eastern nation won the right to host the 2023 tournament.”
Source: Yonhap News Agency