India pulls out of bid to host 2027 AFC show


2027 Asian Cup will be hosted in Saudi Arabia Image: Coliseum GSVA

India on Monday (December 5th) withdrew its bid to stage the 2027 AFC Asian Cup with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) declaring that hosting big-ticket events is not among its “strategic priorities” at this juncture.

‘The Hindu’ stated that India and Saudi Arabia were the only two countries left as bidders to host the 2027 continental football showpiece after nations such as Iran and Uzbekistan pulled out of the race in October.

The 2027 AFC Asian Cup will be the 19th edition of the AFC Asian Cup, the quadrennial international men’s football championship of Asia organized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). It is expected to be held in Saudi Arabia for the first time. The tournament will involve 24 national teams after the expansion in 2019.

New Delhi-based the All India Football Federation (AIFF) is the governing body of football in India under jurisdiction of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India. Formed in 1935, the federation was one of the founding members of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the overseer of football in Asia.

Malaysia-based the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is the governing body of association football, beach soccer and futsal in some countries/territories in Asia and Oceania. It has 47 member countries most of which are located in Asia. Australia, formerly in Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), joined AFC in 2006.

‘The Hindu’ further stated that India’s bid was launched amid much fanfare in 2020 when sports administrator Praful Patel was the AIFF President. But the current dispensation under Kalyan Chaubey feels “building the foundations of football structure” through grassroots and youth development was more important than hosting big events.

The AIFF Executive Committee sent out a statement which read, “As per the strategic roadmap of the Federation, which will be announced later this month, the AIFF management thinks hosting of big events doesn’t fit into the Federation’s strategic priorities. Our current focus is building the foundations of proper footballing structure before thinking of hosting bigger events like the AFC Asian Cup.”

Chaubey said India has always been “a wonderful and efficient host” to big tournaments, like the recently-concluded FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, but the focus will now shift to strengthening the country’s football at every level, from grassroots to youth development.

He added, “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. Our current focus is building the foundations of proper footballing structure before thinking of hosting bigger events like the AFC Asian Cup.”

The AIFF Secretary General Shaji Prabhakaran said, “Our strategy is very simple. We must focus on developing the game on a priority basis, before planning to host major international competitions. Hosting competitions require big resources and sometimes encourages the tendency to take the major issues away from our focus. Right now, our focus should be to take Indian football forward together.”

The AFC said it will now present Saudi Arabia’s bid to host the 2027 tournament to its Congress, to be held in February in Manama (capital of Bahrain) – “The AFC has been officially notified by the AIFF of their decision to withdraw their bid from the AFC Asian Cup 2027 host selection process. The AFC Congress is to decide the final host in Manama, Bahrain, in February 2023. Following the withdrawal of the AIFF bid, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF’s) bid to host the 19th edition of the AFC Asian Cup in 2027 will now be the only one presented to the 33rd AFC Congress for consideration.”

The 2023 edition of the AFC Asian Cup will be held in Qatar after original host China expressed its inability to stage the tournament due to the COVID-19 situation in the country.

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