While France will lift, on Monday May 16, the ultimate health restriction with the end of the compulsory mask in transport, China is still struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic. So much so that the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced on Saturday that the Middle Kingdom would not organize the Asian Football Cup 2023, the equivalent of the Euro. The competition was scheduled to take place from June 16 to July 16, 2023 in 10 Chinese cities.
The governing body of Asian football refers to “exceptional circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic”. It must be said that China, rather spared until then, has been facing an exponential growth in the number of SARS CoV-2 contaminations for several months. The government is thus leading a “zero Covid” policy, forcing, for example, the 25 million inhabitants of Shanghai to observe total confinement for a month and a half.
Sport on hold in China
This cancellation represents a real blow for China, which had made sport an essential element of its soft power since the beginning of the 2000s. Admittedly, the 2022 Winter Olympics did indeed take place in Beijing, but unrolled in an impermeable sanitary bubble. Apart from this event, China has not hosted any sports competition since the start of the pandemic. All tennis tournaments (male and female) have been canceled, as has the Formula 1 Grand Prix or even athletic meetings counting for the Diamond League.
The AFC has not communicated about the new host country of this 2023 Asian Cup. In 2019, Qatar lifted the trophy in the United Arab Emirates by beating Japan (3-1) in the final. For its part, China had reached the quarterfinals before being eliminated by Iran (0-3).