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Saudi Arabia adds 2027 Asian Cup to events portfolio

Featured image credit: AFC

Saudi Arabia has further strengthened its position in the football market after it was today (Wednesday) confirmed as host of the 2027 Asian Cup.

The decision by Asian Football Confederation member associations at the AFC Congress in Manama, Bahrain comes after the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in December 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 AFC confirmed that it had been informed by the AIFF of its decision to withdraw from the process.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s (SAFF) bid was the only one presented to the AFC Congress. Iran withdrew its proposal to host the tournament in October, while Uzbekistan was initially interested but stepped back in December 2020.

Today’s landmark decision marks the first time Asian football’s showpiece event will be staged in Saudi Arabia, while it also reinforces the Middle East’s recent stronghold on the competition. Saudi Arabia’s staging in 2027 will mean the region will have held four out of the past five Asian Cups.

Qatar hosted the 2011 Asian Cup and, after Australia’s staging in 2015, the tournament headed to the United Arab Emirates in 2019. The next edition of the Asian Cup will take place in Qatar from June 16 to July 16. 

Qatar had also been in contention for 2027, but was awarded this year’s 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.

The Saudi bid plan foresees the Asian Cup taking place in eight main stadia across the cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. A new stadium in each of the three cities will be part of the plan, including the venue that is being developed as part of the vast Qiddiya scheme outside of Riyadh.

King Fahd Stadium (Riyadh), Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium (Riyadh), Prince Muhammad Bin Fahd Stadium (Dammam) and Prince Saud City Bin Jalawi Stadium (Khobar) are also set for significant redevelopment, according to the organisers.

HRH Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, Minister of Sport and chairman of the Saudi Olympic & Paralympic Committee, who led the presentation to the AFC Congress, said: “It is an honour to have been chosen as hosts for the AFC Asian Cup 2027 and this is a historic and exciting moment for football in Saudi Arabia. 

“We believe the best days of Asian football are yet to come and we see this tournament as an opportunity to showcase all that’s great about the game here. Our experience in hosting major sporting and entertainment events means that we are ready to deliver and ready to warmly welcome fans from across Asia and around the world. 

“This will be an incredible AFC Asian Cup, made even more special by the passion of the Saudi fans. I would like to thank the AFC and all the member associations that have been involved in this process.”

Today’s AFC gathering also saw president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa re-elected unopposed by acclamation for a third four-year term until 2027.  Shaikh Salman, who took over as the 10th AFC president in 2013, was also re-elected unopposed in 2015 and 2019.

Congratulating the SAFF on landing the 2027 Asian Cup, he said today: “This will be the first time the tournament will be staged in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and we look forward to working closely with the SAFF and the Saudi Arabian Government to deliver a memorable AFC Asian Cup for our fans and players in 2027.”