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KUALA LUMPUR: World Cup hosts Qatar will stage the 2023 Asian Cup, the Asian Football Confederation said on Monday, after China withdrew earlier this year because of Covid.

China in June 2019 won the bid to host the event but pulled out in May because of its “zero-Covid” policy, leaving the AFC scrambling to find a new host for its flagship men’s 24-team football tournament.

The tournament had been due to be held in 10 Chinese cities from June 16 to July 16 next year.

South Korea and Indonesia were the other two countries in the running after China’s withdrawal, but Qatar got the nod.

“The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) executive committee has today confirmed the Qatar Football Association (QFA) as the host association for the AFC Asian Cup 2023,” the Malaysia-based AFC said in a statement.

The AFC did not give dates for the Asian Cup. It also said its executive committee has shortlisted India and Saudi Arabia for the 2027 Asian Cup.

AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said Qatar is ready to put on the event despite the short lead time to prepare. It will also host the World Cup starting next month.

Qatar says over 1.5 million apply for World Cup pass

The AFC chief hailed Qatar’s “existing world-class infrastructure and unrivalled hosting capabilities”.

“Qatar’s capabilities and track record in hosting major international sporting events and their meticulous attention to detail are well admired throughout the globe,” he said.

“I must also commend the AFC for showcasing utmost professionalism in conducting a fair and transparent expedited bidding process and I thank all our commercial partners and sponsors for their patience during these unprecedented times.”

The Asian Cup is staged every four years. Qatar won the tournament’s last edition, in 2019, which was hosted by the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar hosted the 1988 and 2011 editions.

South Korea jointly held the men’s 2002 World Cup with Japan, but has not staged the Asian Cup since 1960.

Indonesia held matches at the 2007 Asian Cup along with Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

But earlier this month Indonesia was struck by a deadly football tragedy that has become one of the world’s worst stadium disasters, with experts raising doubts about its capability to host major international events.

At least 131 people died and hundreds were injured in the disaster in an overcrowded stadium in Malang in East Java.

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