Saudi Arabia set to host 2027 Asian Cup after India withdraws

Featured image credit: Qiddiya

Saudi Arabia is set to host football’s Asian Cup in 2027 after the All India Football Federation (AIFF) withdrew its bid to stage the national team tournament.

Saudi Arabia and India were the only two countries in contention to host the tournament, but the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirmed today (Monday) that it had been informed by the AIFF of its decision to withdraw from the process.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF)’s bid will now be the only one presented to the 33rd AFC Congress meeting in Manama, Bahrain in February 2023. Iran withdrew its proposal to host the tournament in October, while Uzbekistan was initially interested but stepped back in December 2020.

In a statement confirming its withdrawal, the AIFF said the hosting of big events does not currently fit into its strategic priorities. “Our current focus is building the foundations of proper footballing structure before thinking of hosting bigger events like the AFC Asian Cup,” a statement from the AIFF executive committee read.

AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey added: “India has always been a wonderful and efficient host to big tournaments, which was amply demonstrated in the recently concluded FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup.

“However, the EC has decided that the overall strategy of the federation currently remains on focusing on the fundamental goals to strengthen our football at every level from grassroots to youth development.

“At the same time, we must also strengthen our stakeholders, especially the state associations and work closely with the clubs to bring about a change in every aspect of football at the domestic level. All such aspects will truly be implemented when the roadmap is announced later this month.”

Saudi Arabia has identified 10 stadiums across the three cities of Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah to host matches at the Asian Cup. The Qiddiya Stadium (pictured), which is due to open in 2023, is among the proposed venues.

In other news, Saudi Arabia has submitted a bid to host the 2026 edition of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup. The SAFF said that hosting the tournament would open “new horizons” for women’s football in Saudi Arabia and the wider region.

Saudi Arabia will face competition to host the event from Jordan, Australia and Uzbekistan. The AFC is expected to announce the host country for the tournament in 2023.

Saudi Arabia is also considering a bid to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup, with the country’s Tourism Minister Ahmed Al Khateeb last week stating that a joint proposal with Egypt and Greece is a possibility.

The next edition of the men’s Asian Cup will take place in Qatar in 2023. Qatar was awarded hosting rights in October after China withdrew from staging the tournament in May amid the continuing challenges created by its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.