From Vikneswaran Raman
MANAMA (Bahrain), Feb 2 (NNN-Bernama) — The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been given the green light to host the Asian Cup for the first time ever in 2027.
Despite being one of the most successful teams in the continent, having won the Asian Cup three times (1984, 1988 and 1996) after having entered six finals and represented Asia in the World Cup six times, Saudi has yet to host Asia’s crown jewel, founded in 1956.
However, the ambition now becomes a reality after 43 nations voted in favour of Saudi’s bid for the hosting rights at the 33rd Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Congress which was held at the Gulf Convention Centre here, Wednesday.
Turkmenistan and Palestine abstained from voting.
AFC President Shaikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa, who retained the top post unopposed, congratulated Saudi for the successful bid.
“We look forward to working closely with the SAFF (Saudi Arabian Football Federation) and the Saudi Arabian Government to deliver a memorable AFC Asian Cup for our fans and players in 2027,” he said in his closing remarks.
Saudi has also won bids to host the 2034 Asian Games in Riyadh and 2029 Asian Winter Games at a planned mountain resort.
Meanwhile, Saudi Olympics and Paralympics Committee President Prince Abdulaziz Turki Al Faisal Al Saud during his presentation to the delegates from 46 countries, said the tournament will be an opportunity to showcase all the great aspects about the game.
“It is an honour to have been chosen as hosts for the Asian Cup, and this is a historic and exciting moment for football in Saudi Arabia. Our experience in hosting major sporting and entertainment events means that we are ready to deliver.
“This will be an incredible 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,” he said.
Saudi Arabia was the sole remaining bidder for the 2027 edition from the five original bidders in 2020, after Uzbekistan and Iran officially withdrew their bids to host the Asian Cup 2027 on Dec 14, 2020, and Oct 13, 2022, respectively, while India pulled out of the race last December.
Defending champions Qatar withdrew after winning the 2023 bid, in accordance with the applicable bidding regulations. The original hosts for the 2023 edition, China cancelled the plan due to the COVID-19 pandemic.