China to bid for 2023 Asian Cup

Beijing, December 31

China is preparing to bid for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, the continent’s biggest football championship, the country’s top soccer authority said as it hopes to one day host the World Cup.

The Chinese Football Association is soliciting input for a possible application to host the tournament, it said in a letter to its members posted on its website. The bid will require at least six cities and eight stadiums to host a total of 51 competitions in the month-long contest, which is held every four years.

China is the world’s most populous country and its second-largest economy, but its football team languishes in 84th place in the FIFA world rankings, and it is on the verge of elimination for Russia 2018 after a 0-0 draw with Hong Kong in November.

President Xi Jinping has called on the nation to up its game with the goals of eventually hosting and winning a World Cup — a tournament in which it has only appeared once, in 2002.

Chinese football long suffered from endemic corruption, with a history of match-rigging and bribery, but authorities have sought to clean up the game in recent years.

China hosted the Asian Cup in 2004 and reached the final, but lost 3-1 to neighbour and rival Japan, triggering a riot by fans.